A fourth-quarter sequence helped change the complexion of Boise State women’s basketball coach Gordy Presnell’s budding program.
He smiled as he recently recalled the genesis of the Broncos’ run – three straight NCAA Tournament appearances – and singled out the timely surge of a left-handed freshman.
Boise State trailed top-seeded Colorado State in the fourth quarter of the 2017 Mountain West Tournament semifinals before former Lewis and Clark guard Riley Lupfer did what she did so many times in the Greater Spokane League.
She went off.
Lupfer came off the bench to score 15 points down the stretch, including a 3-for-3 clip from 3-point range to help fourth-seeded Boise State clip upset the Rams 65-61 in Las Vegas.
The Broncos (10-4, 2-0) have since won three Mountain West Tournament titles, a pair of regular-season championships and are widely expected to win another this season.
“(Lupfer) probably turned our whole program around,” Presnell said after a Dec. 15 win at Eastern Washington. “And ever since (the upset of Colorado State ) she’s just had this way about her.”
“She’s a culture kid, teammates follow her and the way she wants it done, and she does things the right way.”
She’s a record-breaker, too.
Lupfer owns Boise State’s career 3-point record (293) and the Mountain West single-season record (122).
The two-time All-Mountain West selection points to a system that’s tailored to her long-range stroke.
“I have a lot of people that get to the key and create for me (outside),” said Lupfer, who has 1,297 career points. “I honestly just stand around the 3-point line a lot.”
Parnell joked that the crafty Lupfer isn’t blessed with explosive athleticism, but with an innate ability to judge a defender’s distance and being in the right spots defensively.
The 5-foot-9 senior’s fiery demeanor falls in line with her assertive approach.
When Boise State’s emotional leader is displeased, her teammates, coaches, opponents – even the officials – know it.
“That’s grit,” she said. “That’s what is great about the game is that it brings out those emotions in those big moments, and if I get fired up, the team gets fired up. You’re better that way.”
Ex-Lewis and Clark coach George Pfeifer – a former men’s basketball head coach at Idaho, MSU-Billings and Lewis-Clark State – witnessed Lupfer’s edge on a regular basis.
“She plays hard, she has a high basketball IQ and she’s ultra-competitive,” Pfeifer said during Lupfer’ senior year at LC. “Some kids, when the lights get brighter, they become invisible. In her case she just gets brighter. She doesn’t run and hide from it.”
In a league often littered with Division I talent, Lupfer was one of the GSL’s all-time great scorers, averaging 20.6 points, 6.4 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 1.2 blocks and 1.1 steals a game as a senior at LC, helping the Tigers place sixth at the State 4A tournament.
The 2016 GSL MVP and First-Team All-State selection generated plenty of interest from Gonzaga, Eastern Washington, Idaho and Montana State, and others.
She was the Mountain West preseason MVP in 2018.
“I’m a homebody, so I always thought in the back of my mind that I’d end up at Gonzaga,” Lupfer said. “But when I got to Boise State, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I wanted to go there. It’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”
Presnell, who grew up near Lewiston in Lapwai, is glad she did.
“She’s had an unbelievable career here and we’ll miss her when she’s gone,” Presnell said. “I hope she goes to play professionally in Europe.”
Since Lupfer stepped foot on the Southern Idaho campus in the summer of 2016, BSU has turned the corner with a 86-27 overall record and three NCAA Tournament appearances. The Broncos were 72-55 the previous four seasons with a single NCAA berth.
That’s what she said she’ll remember most about her time in Boise, not her multiple individual records.
“You hear about (the records) when they happen, then it just goes away,” Lupfer said. “What I look back on is the relationships I’ve made and the titles we’ve won since I’ve been here. That’s the stuff I can carry with my teammates for the rest of our lives.”
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