Observer staff

Jessica Sexson and Maya Ah You-Dias both scored 16 points, Stormee Van Belle added 15 and the No. 7 Eastern Oregon women’s basketball team used a key 15-0 run in the fourth quarter to take the lead for good in a 73-64 win over NCAA Division III opponenet Whitman College in its home opener Wednesday night.

The back-and-forth contest saw five ties and 12 lead changes, but the last lead change came when Van Belle started the decisive run with 3-point play for a 61-59 advantage at the 6:59 mark of the fourth quarter. The inside game eventually opened up the 3-point-line as Payton Parrish later hit back-to-back 3-pointers — her only points of the night — less than 30 seconds apart to extend the lead to eight. Ah You-Dias added two 3s of her own later in the fourth to give EOU the largest lead of the game at 73-59 with 3:06 left.

Eastern was 4-for-6 from beyond the arc in the final quarter, and 9-for 15 for the game.

The Mountaineers trailed 34-29 at the break when the Blues ended the first half on a 7-0 run, but got back in the game pounding the ball inside to Van Belle early in the third. Van Belle scored seven of her points in the third, including hitting a pair of jumpers in the paint early in the quarter to get EOU within 36-35. Ah You-Dias, who had just two points at halftime, also got going in the third with eight points. She got into the paint on several occasions and also scored twice on putbacks, the second time giving EOU a 44-39 lead. Maren Herrud also had 10 points, including eight in the second half.

Sexson, whose total was one point off her top effort as a Mountaineer of 17 points scored last season, was the aggressor early and kept EOU in the game in the first half. The senior was a perfect 6-for-6 in the first half — scoring at the rim and from the outside — and had a game-high 13 points at the break. She also hit a key 3 late in the third that gave EOU a 52-51 lead.

Sexson also has five steals as EOU collected 17 steals on the night and forced 28 Whitman turnovers. The turnover margin of plus-11 for the Mountaineers, who had 17 of their own — helped offset a rough night on the backboards, where the Blues had a 33-19 rebounding advantage.

Both teams shot over 50 percent for the night, EOU hitting 27-of-52 field goal attempts, and Whitman knocking down 26-of-50. Maegen Martin and Kaelan Shamseldin both scored 12 points to lead the Blues.

EOU (5-1 overall) travels to face Central Washington in an exhibition Tuesday before meeting Lewis-Clark State for the second time this season Nov. 24 in Caldwell, Idaho.

See the complete recap in the Nov. 17 edition of The Observer.