NORTHRIDGE — Edniesha Curry finally found her groove.
It took a while, but when it came, Cal State Northridge was off and running to an 83-68 victory over Northern Arizona in a Big Sky Conference tournament women's basketball semifinal game before 905 on Friday night at Northridge.
Curry, held to five points in the first half, scored 17 points in a five-minute span midway through the second half to help the top-seeded Matadors (20-7) pull away from a see-saw battle and all the way into the championship game against second-seeded Portland State (18-9) tonight at 5.
The Big Sky tournament winner advances to the NCAA tournament.
"My teammates came up to me [at halftime] and said, 'Let the game come to you,' " Curry said.
She definitely did.
The high-strung sophomore guard from Palmdale High, Northridge's top scorer this season, finished with 24 points on eight-of-15 shooting.
Her best work started with 9:02 to play on a three-point basket that put Northridge ahead, 58-54, and she hit another one 43 seconds later for a 61-54 advantage.
Northern Arizona (14-14) never recovered from the blitz.
The sixth-seeded Lumberjacks, who reached the semifinals with a 68-56 victory over No. 3-seeded Montana State on Thursday night, got into a foot race with Northridge in the first half and led, 34-32, at halftime.
But perhaps that game took too much out of Northern Arizona in the second half against the Matadors.
Frozena Jerro, Northridge's coach, switched to a four-guard unit just before Curry got hot and the Matadors ran to victory.
"We wanted to turn it up a notch," Jerro said. "We sensed their legs were going a little bit at that time."
She guessed right.
Curry, Natalia Jonas, Jamilah Jones and Tina Greer fastbreaked Northern Arizona into submission, penetrated easily for baskets and played aggressive defense.
The group, which included center Keisha Harris, rode the wave until Harris fouled out with 3:01 to play. By that time, Northridge had the game in hand, 77-63.
"They just took it to us in the second half," said RaeAnn West, Northern Arizona's all-conference guard.
West finished with 20 points, one of four Lumberjacks in double figures, but it wasn't enough for Northern Arizona to avoid being swept by Northridge in three meetings this season.
The victory's significance wasn't lost on the Matadors. Northern Arizona bounced them from the tournament last year in the semifinals, 61-49.
"I actually had forgotten about that," Jerro said. "One of [our] players mentioned that it was payback time."
The Matadors used their quickness to penetrate and fastbreak their way to a 12-6 lead six minutes into the game, but Northern Arizona fought back when Northridge went cold late in the first half.
Lynda Amari added 16 points for the Matadors, Harris scored 11 and Jones had 10.
The Matadors made 49.3% (33 of 67) of their shots.
Northridge has won 11 in a row at home since losing Nov. 25 to Yale and is 13-1 at home this season.
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at Cal State Northridge
* Northern Arizona 68, Montana State 56
* Montana 62, Weber State 46
* Portland State 64, Montana 51
* CS Northridge 83, Northern Arizona 68
Championship game, 5 p.m.
* Portland State vs. CS Northridge*
*Winner advances to NCAA tournament