Robert Casey
FILE: Zach Braxton had 10 points and nine rebounds in Weber State's exhibition win earlier this year. Braxton had 22 points in the Wildcats' win over North Dakota on Thursday.
Pretty much the whole game it was back and forth and nobody could get away from one another. —Weber State coach Randy Rahe

OGDEN — Locked in a tight battle with visiting North Dakota on Thursday night, and having a relatively quiet evening, Weber State guard Jerrick Harding gave his team a boost. The 6-foot-1 sophomore got loose in transition, looked off teammate Brekkott Chapman and threw down a massive dunk to help the Wildcats break open a tight game on their way to an 84-76 win.

The Wildcats broke a four-game losing streak to the Fighting Hawks and Wildcats coach Randy Rahe emphasized the lift Harding’s dunk gave the team.

“Pretty much the whole game it was back and forth and nobody could get away from one another,” Rahe said. “We kept telling them in the huddle, let’s make a couple plays, let’s make a little push and we had just enough to get up by eight and hold on.”

Four Weber State players reached double figures with Zach Braxton scoring 22 and Harding 21. Junior forward, Chapman lit up the stat sheet finishing with 19 points, 12 rebounds, five assists and two blocked shot.

Chapman says his coaches and teammates continue to push him to be more aggressive in practice and teammate Braxton sees Chapman’s improvement and knows his importance to the team.

“We trust Brekkott and we are always hearing stuff but we don’t let that get to us,” Braxton said. “Tonight he went out and did his thing and he’s going to keep doing it the rest of the season because that’s what he does.”

It was a slow start by both teams as Weber State led 5-2 at the 15:45 mark on the strength of a Chapman reverse and a Ryan Richardson 3-pointer. Harding, the Big Sky’s leading scorer, didn’t get on the board until the 11:40 mark as Weber State led 13-9. North Dakota got back into the mix with a jumper and 3-pointer from Dale Jones, the latter which gave the Fighting Hawks their first lead of the game. Post player Conner Avants scored back-to-back hoops, giving North Dakota its biggest lead of the half, 26-21.

Weber State knotted the score at 26-26 on a Chapman 3-pointer and a finish from Harding. The Wildcats took a 31-29 lead into the locker room as Chapman’s third 3-pointer of the half just beat the buzzer.

Rahe called the Fighting Hawks a team his Wildcats don’t match up well against. Weber State took a 46-42 lead on a Dusty Baker 3-pointer but North Dakota regained the lead, 49-48 on a Jones 3-pointer. Back-to-back 3-pointers from Chapman and Harding followed by Harding’s highlight reel dunk were part of an 8-0 run that gave the Wildcats a 61-53 lead with 8:03 remaining.

North Dakota would not go away though and after back-to-back 3-pointers from Geno Crandall and a pair of free-throws, the game was tied for the tenth time, 69-69 with 2:43 remaining.

A 3-point play from Chapman, a Ryan Richardson floater and a 3-pointer from Baker were part of a 15-7 run that put the game away.

“Credit to our kids as we kinda picked it up in the second half and got more aggressive, got some stops and were able to break away,” Rahe said. “It was an ugly game and sometimes you gotta win ugly and our kids found a way.”

The Wildcats improved to (16-7, 9-2) heading into Saturday’s home game against Northern Colorado.