UCI Falls Just Short in Thrilling Finish Against Portland State

A tenacious late rally during the final two minutes of a tightly contested game against Portland State (3-3) fell short for the UC Irvine women’s basketball team (1-7) who were fended off from taking on their second straight victory of the season with a 79-73 loss Saturday evening.

Trailing 75-65 with a little under two minutes remaining in regulation, senior guard Irene Chavez, who finished with 15 points (on a career-tying five threes), three rebounds, and two assists, connected on a triple that ignited a quick 8-0 run to cut UCI’s deficit to two. However, with the clock clicking down to 15 seconds, the ‘Eaters were forced foul and the Vikings converted both of their free throws.

Senior guard Irene Chavez tied her career-high with five triples to post 15 points during Saturday’s loss against Portland State (Photo courtesy of Chris Lee)
Senior guard Irene Chavez tied her career-high with five triples to post 15 points during Saturday’s loss against Portland State (Photo courtesy of Chris Lee)
UCI had an opportunity to get back into striking distance but a miscue would fall into the hands of Portland, who were fouled once more before the game was sealed at 79-73.

In the nail-biter, Senior forward Shereen Sutherland led UCI, shooting 50 percent from the floor for 20 points to go along with her 12 rebounds. Her double double marks the second for the team on the season thus far.

Junior forward Sabrina Engelstad, who recorded the first double double on the season for the ‘Eaters during the LMU Tourney two weeks ago, stretched her double-digit scoring streak to six with a season-high 16 points as sophomore guard Andee Ritter and senior forward Chloe Kellum cashed in eight points a piece. Ritter also continues to make her presence felt defensively, getting a hand on four steals and securing four defensive boards.

For the Vikings, sophomore guards Ashley Bolton and Michaela Kay each dropped in 20 points and combined for 11 assists. Bolton and Kay flip-flopped on scoring binges with Bolton finishing the first half with just two points and going on a hot streak in the second half with 18 as Kay locked in 17 to start the game but went ice cold in the third and fourth with just three.

Both teams got off to a slow, combining for just 24 points in the opening quarter. UCI, in particular, did not record their first basket until the 7:19 mark when Engelstad broke the dry spell on a jump shot to tie the game at 2-2.

The Vikings would finally find the momentum nearing the midway point in the period, going out on a 7-2 run to extend the lead to five, but a pair of Kellum free throws and a Ritter triple—marking her eighth consecutive game at which she has recorded at least one three pointer—brought the ‘Eaters back up to a one point deficit, 9-8.

The second quarter kicked off with a flurry of shots from both teams. After Portland State closed out the opening period with two consecutive shots to distance themselves by four, Kellum shaved the deficit back to two before Kay hit consecutive shots from beyond the arc to garner an eight point advantage. Following two timeouts, Chavez answered right back with a triple of her own, the first of five on the night, as Kellum knocked down her third basket to keep the ‘Eaters a float.

The Vikings however, caught fire from outside as Kay knocked down four triples to help push Portland State out to a 37-30.

Despite Kay’s quiet third period where she failed to register a single point, Portland State’s momentum carried over to Bolton, redshirt sophomore forward Courtney West, and redshirt sophomore guard Sidney Rielly who all went perfect from the field and contributed a collective 20 points to keep the ‘Eaters from overturning the deficit. By the end of three, the Vikings remained atop, 57-44.

When Portland State looked to seal the game, going on an aggressive offensive attack early in the fourth, Engelstad emerged big for UCI, scoring the first five points for the ‘Eaters. And when the Vikings continued to draw fouls and log points at the line, UCI found it’s touch from the outside and began a rally that would fall just short with time playing as a sixth defender and current against UCI’s final push.

Having concluded their final non-conference road game, the ‘Eaters will return to the Bren Events Center for a seven game home stand that includes the conference opener against UC Davis (5-2) that will tip off at 7:00pm on Thursday, Jan. 5th.