LAS VEGAS – The best feeling in the world.
Smiling ear-to-ear with a trophy and net in front of her, it was the only way Boise State sophomore A’Shanti Coleman could describe her emotions after draining the biggest basket of her career.
Marta Hermida’s short jumper from the right baseline clanked off the rim to teammate Shalen Shaw, who tipped the ball to Coleman, who then banked in the game-winning buzzer beater to give Boise State a 62-60 come-from-behind victory over Nevada on Friday in the Mountain West women’s championship game.
“I felt like it was a normal shot for me, kind of confident, because I knew I had enough time, but I didn’t want to rush the shot and get it off,” Coleman said. “I felt like when it came out of my hand it was going to go in.”
It was Boise State’s first lead since opening the game with a 3-pointer by the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player Riley Lupfer (Lewis and Clark).
Lupfer led Boise State (23-9) with 19 points on 6 of 17 shooting, including 5 of 13 from 3-point range. Braydey Hodgins added 14, while Coleman and Shaw each had 10.
The top-seeded Broncos won their second straight and third Mountain West tournament title in four years, and get the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
“I couldn’t have done it without the team, every team over the years, because they’re all different,” said Shaw, who is one of two seniors on the team and has been a part of all three championships. “It’s been able to continue because … the core people that were here last year and in the same position kind of knew what to bring to the table and knew what we expected. And we kind of relayed that to the new people.”
Teige Zeller led seventh-seeded Nevada (17-16) with 14 points, while Jade Redmon (Mead) had 11 and T Moe chipped in with 10.
The Broncos erased a 10-point lead in the third quarter, and made their final run over the last two minutes of the game.
“We’ve done a great job this past two months handling adversity and being tough and never letting anything really escape us. We reeled it back in sometimes,” Boise State Gordy Presnell said. “I think it says that people like (A’Shanti) over here step up and do what they’re supposed to do and represent Boise State.”
Tied at 60, Nevada took the first crack at a game-winner. But after Redmon’s baseline jumper missed, the ball went out of bounds to Boise State, and the Broncos patiently set up their final sequence.
Clinging to a one-point lead early in the third quarter, Moe ignited an 11-2 run for the Wolf Pack, which opened a 46-36 lead with 6:02 left. At the other end, Boise State struggled beyond a five-point spurt from Hodgins, as the Broncos shot just 33.3 percent (4 of 12) from the floor. Nevada took a 46-43 lead into the final quarter.
“We had the lead most of the game, just couldn’t quite hold on,” Nevada coach Amanda Levens said. “I thought the offensive rebounding, especially in the fourth quarter, got us. They hurt us a little bit in transition in the fourth quarter. We needed to sprint back and play, I thought, a little bit better.
“And offensively, we missed some shots we’ve been making in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately, I thought Terae (Briggs) had a great look at a layup that just didn’t go down. T Moe had a couple of looks that she’s been making all week that just didn’t go down.”
Nevada opened the game red hot from the field, hitting 6 of its first 9 from the floor en route to an 18-13 lead after one. Behind the shooting touch of Camariah King, the Wolf Pack shot 50 percent from the field, hitting 7 of 14 in the first quarter. Nevada also outrebounded Boise State 10-5 over the first 10 minutes.
Boise State tried to keep pace from the 3-point stripe, but Lupfer was the only one who could connect. The Broncos were 3 of 9 from long range, with Lupfer draining all three.
After falling behind nine early in the second quarter, 24-15, the Broncos made a run of their own, scoring the game’s next eight points to pull within one. The teams traded baskets until Boise State took a 31-29 lead behind a Marta Hermida 3-pointer. Nevada closed the half with four unanswered points and took a 33-31 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Nevada: Sophomore guard King came off the bench to provide a huge spark for the Wolf Pack in the tournament, averaging 9.3 points in three games. King’s long-range game came alive, as she buried 6 of 14 from the 3-point line.
Boise State: Hodgins has elevated her game at the right time for the Broncos, as she scored a career-high 25 points on 8-for-11 shooting in Wednesday’s semifinal win over Colorado State. She averaged 16.7 in the tournament.
Nevada: Is hoping for a bid to a lower-tier postseason tournament.
Boise State: The Broncos advance to the NCAA Tournament.