Northern Arizona trailed by as many as 12 points in the second half and was down six with a little over three minutes to play before riding an 11-0 run to a 62-58 come-from-behind win over Eastern Washington on Saturday in Cheney.
"We obviously didn't start the way we wanted to start, but we had enough wherewithal to stay with it and stick with what was working," NAU head coach Sue Darling said. "I couldn't be more proud of this team. It was a tough game and these kids earned that win."
NAU trailed 56-50 with 3:08 to play before scoring the next 11 points.
The Lumberjacks brought the score even as senior Tyler Stephens-Jenkins made a pair of layups around a jumper from senior Amy Patton to tie the game at 56-56 with 44 seconds to play.
After a missed free throw NAU sophomore Erikka Banks grabbed an offensive rebound and was fouled before draining two free throws to give NAU its first lead in the second half. Eastern Washington missed a shot and Patton made two free throws after getting fouled, and after another Eagle miss, senior Aubrey Davis hit a free throw to extend NAU's lead to 61-56 with 17 seconds to play.
Eastern Washington committed three turnovers and missed five shots during the three-minute stretch before hitting a pair of free throws with eight seconds left. After Davis was fouled Banks grabbed another offensive board and added a free throw to ice the four-point win.
"This was a huge game and it's a huge win," Darling said. "I'm really proud of these guys for sticking with what we've been doing."
Patton finished with a game-high 18 points and six steals while junior Amanda Frost posted 12 points and four steals. Banks played the best game of her sophomore season in totaling 10 points and eight rebounds while shooting 6 of 8 from the free-throw line.
"We needed this game to get our momentum back," Banks said. "I just went out there and gave it my all for my team and my coaches. I was very nervous (shooting late free throws) but I focused in and made them for my team."
With the win, NAU (6-16, 5-8 Big Sky) equaled Southern Utah, Portland State and North Dakota with five conference victories as the teams battle for seventh and final qualifying spot for the Big Sky Championship.
NAU returns home for its next three games starting at 6:35 p.m. Thursday against Northern Colorado in Rolle Activity Center.
TRACK AND FIELD
Diego Estrada returned to the national stage Saturday evening and didn't disappoint.
The 2012 Olympian and seven-time All-American, in just his second race of the 2013 season, won heat two of the men's 3,000-meter Invite division and finished second overall in a time of 7:50.44, one of the fastest marks run collegiately so far in 2013.
"Diego looked great out there today," said Director of Track and Field and Cross Country Eric Heins. "He's had a history of running great time trial races, but ever since the race that qualified him for the Olympics last spring he's become better at actually competing and running races trying to win them. The best part about this race was the fact that he not only won the race, but won it pulling away from the field."
Running alongside teammate Brian Shrader, who finished the race not far behind in 8:00.14, Estrada began the race conservatively but steadily moved up as the talent-laden race wore on. As the bell rung to indicate the final lap, the senior was in perfect position to put away Tom Farrell of Oklahoma State, in-state foe Nick Happe of Arizona State, and former Big Sky Conference rival Patrick Casey of Oklahoma through the race's last 300 meters.
Although Estrada and Shrader competed in the night's marquee event from the Dempsey Indoor track facility, numerous other Lumberjacks had career days of their own.
Junior Matt McElroy, who competed in the men's 5,000 meters Friday night after press time, notched a personal best with a time of 14:10.53 to finish 13th overall in the men's Open division. McElroy then returned to the track Saturday afternoon for the Open division of the 3,000 meters, impressively notching another lifetime best of 8:11.97.
On the women's side, seniors Rochelle Kanuho and Agnes Laurent found PRs in the 3,000 meters and the mile, respectively. Laurent, running in the fifth and final heat of the mile, notched a time of 4:49.07 to take fifth overall.
Kanuho, who was competing in the Husky Classic women's Invite division of the 3K race for the first time in her career, performed accordingly with a time of 9:30.66, a PR by more than 20 seconds and good enough for sixth in her heat and 25th overall.
"Her performance was awesome, considering the circumstances of her getting placed in the second fastest heat of the entire event," Heins said. "She missed her scheduled heat earlier in the day, so she got bumped up to the Invite section, and she did great mixing it up with those girls and getting sixth in her heat."
Freshman Rolonda Jumbo, in leading off the NAU runners Saturday, earned a collegiate best in the mile with a time of 5:01.48. Jumbo's mark was 11 seconds better than her initial mile race this season, and was less than a half-second off the Big Sky Conference qualifying mark in the event.
The Lumberjack track and field squad is back home this week for their final home meet of the 2013 indoor season.
The NAU Tune-Up is scheduled for Thursday night, with the field events starting at 4:30 p.m. and the running events beginning at 5 p.m.