VALLEY CITY  (VCSU)  – The Valley City State women’s basketball team is just one win away from securing the program’s first conference title in more than 25 years.

The Vikings improved to 10-3 in conference play with a 70-60 win over Waldorf University on Saturday, putting the Vikings in position to play for at least a share of the regular season conference title when they host Mayville State on Feb. 16.

Mayville State is currently leading the conference at 10-2 and will host Waldorf on Sunday. Whether the Comets win or lose that game, the Vikings will have a chance to catch Mayville with a win in the regular season finale next weekend in Valley City.

The Vikings started fast on Saturday, scoring the first six points against Waldorf and opening up a 19-8 lead after the first quarter. Spurred by eight straight points from Dierra Diegel early in the second quarter, the Vikings went up 27-10 and then extended the lead to as many as 24 points at 38-14. Waldorf would score the final seven points of the half as VCSU took a 38-21 lead into the locker room.

VCSU controlled the game throughout the second half, never letting the Warriors closer than nine points the rest of the way.

“I thought we came out with tremendous energy and focus to start the game,” said VCSU head coach Vanessa Keeler-Johnson. “I am proud of how we bought into the defensive end of the floor and let it spark us offensively. We still have to figure out how to put together 40 minutes of consistent basketball, but overall I am proud of our energy tonight.”

Waldorf University drops to 12-11 overall and 7-5 in conference play. The Warriors are a game ahead of Presentation College for fourth place in the NSAA standings.

VCSU shot 40 percent in Saturday’s victory, going 25-for-62 from the field and 5-for-12 on 3’s. Hannah Schlecht knocked down three of those 3-pointers, going 3-for-4 from deep and finishing with a game-high 18 points to lead the Vikings. Dierra Diegel knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers early in the second quarter and finished with eight points and eight rebounds.

VCSU junior center Mackenzie Huber had a double-double of 11 points and 11 boards. Gabby Martin scored 10 points while freshman Alexis Bentz had a big game off the bench with nine points and seven rebounds. Alli Vandal finished with eight and eight rebounds, part of VCSU’s big 46-27 rebounding advantage. The Vikings collected 16 offensive rebounds, including three each by Vandal, Diegel and Huber.

Waldorf University finished the game at 32 percent from the field (22-69), 33 percent on 3’s (5-15), and was 11-for-12 on free throws.

Michaela Graffunder scored a team-high 14 points for the Warriors, while Marisela Perez made two 3-pointers and finished with 10 points.

The Vikings won despite committing 16 turnovers compared to just seven giveaways by the Warriors.

Up next: Valley City State hosts No. 5-ranked Dakota Wesleyan University for a non-conference game on Wednesday, Feb. 13. The women’s game tips at 6 p.m., and the men’s game follows at 8 p.m. Waldorf University plays at Mayville State University on Sunday in a conference doubleheader.



VALLEY CITY   (VCSU)  – The Valley City State men’s basketball team turned up the defensive intensity late in the game Saturday night as they rallied to a conference victory over Waldorf University.

Trailing 67-61 with five minutes to go, the Vikings used their defense to spark a game-changing 9-0 run en route to a 75-71 victory. The Vikings created Waldorf turnovers on three straight possessions, spurring the late comeback. VCSU held Waldorf to just seven points over the final 6:30, all of which came at the free throw line.

“We talked at halftime about how we’re going to have to win on the defensive end and create offense that way,” said VCSU head coach Ryan Montgomery. “Our guys did that at the pivotal moment of the game, and I’m really proud of that.”

The win is the third straight for the Vikings, who improved to 8-17 overall and 4-9 in the North Star Athletic Association. Waldorf drops to 6-19 overall and 2-10 in the North Star.

Junior guard Michael Cornelious scored after each three of Waldorf’s late turnovers, tying the game at 67-67 with 3:08 to go. Jake Skelly capped the run with a 3-point play inside, putting the Vikings ahead 70-67 with 2:06 to go. After Waldorf cut the lead to one with two free throws from Brian Smith, VCSU freshman Hunter Sand came up huge with an offensive rebound and putback, giving VCSU a 72-69 lead with 1:28 to go. The Vikings made three free throws in the final minute to ice the victory.

Viking guard Jake Skelly scored a team-high 19 points, shooting 7-for-10 from the field and knocking down a pair of 3-pointers. Connor Entzi posted 15 points, and Logan Nelson finished with 13 points on 6-for-10 shooting. Michael Cornelious added seven rebounds and 12 points – six of which came during VCSU’s late run. Denzel Kennedy and Hunter Sand each added seven points.

Valley City State shot 48 percent from the field (31-65), 23 percent on 3’s (5-22) and 8-for-9 at the free throw line. Waldorf finished the game shooting 46 percent overall (25-55), 22 percent on 3’s (4-18) and 85 percent at the line (17-20).

Four Warriors scored in double figures, led by 15 points from Demitrius Martin. Brian Smith added 13 points and six rebounds off the bench, and Quincy Minor Jr. posted 11 points.

Valley City State held a 32-26 rebounding advantage, including a 7-2 edge in offensive rebounds. VCSU finished with eight assists and 13 turnovers, while Waldorf totaled seven assists and 12 turnovers.

The Vikings held a 36-32 lead at the half, getting a buzzer-beater 3-pointer from Logan Nelson heading into the locker room. The game featured six ties and eight lead changes.

Up next: Valley City State hosts nationally-ranked Dakota Wesleyan University for a non-conference game on Wednesday, Feb. 13. The women’s game tips at 6 p.m., and the men’s game follows at 8 p.m. Waldorf University plays at Mayville State University on Sunday in a conference doubleheader.