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UVU women's basketball: Wolverines fall one point short of upsetting Seattle in WAC Tournament semifinals

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LAS VEGAS — UVU’s bid to upset its way into the WAC Tournament women’s basketball championship game came up agonizingly short, as the Wolverines lost to Seattle 61-60 on Friday in the semifinals at Orleans Arena.

Mariah Seals missed a potential game-winning 3-pointer to end the game, wrapping up the Wolverines’ season only moments after it appeared shorthanded UVU might steal the win.

With 21 seconds to play and the Wolverines trailing 59-58, UVU guard Britta Hall was fouled on a 3-point attempt. She hit the first two before missing the third free throw, putting the Wolverines ahead 60-59.

On the ensuing possession, Seattle’s Kaylee Best was fouled on a drive to the basket, hitting both to make it a one-point Redhawks edge with 9.8 seconds to play.

Following a timeout, UVU looked to get the ball inside but was denied, setting up the long Seals jumper that came up short, and the buzzer sounded before UVU could try and get a second look at the win.

“You get in a situation in the semifinal game and you've got the last shot to go to the championship, that's incredible,” UVU head coach Cathy Nixon said. "These ladies did an amazing job. It hurts like heck to lose a game like this, because we had a chance."

It ended an injury-riddled season for a Wolverines team that came into the tournament with a 7-21 record and the No. 6 seed. UVU only had seven active players for the semifinal matchup yet outscored No. 2 Seattle 20-8 in bench points.

Hall had 17 points to lead the Wolverines (8-22), including five 3-pointers, which tied her second-best effort from 3 this season. Sam Lubcke added 16 points and nine rebounds for UVU, while Taylor Gordon and Seals both had 11 points.

"Teammates found me today, and I feel today we played together as one like we did last game," Hall said.

What really hurt UVU was the discrepancy in offensive rebounds, which led to the Redhawks (15-16) owning a 25-5 edge in second-chance points. That provided the difference, as UVU had the advantage in field goal percentage, 52.4 to 31.7.

Unlike their quarterfinal game, in which the Wolverines had to rally in the fourth quarter to beat Cal-State Bakersfield in overtime, UVU got off to a strong start. Hall hit a pair of 3-pointers in the first quarter and the Wolverines led by as many as five points in the first period and as many as seven in the second.

Seattle rallied to take its first lead since 2-0 at 46-45 minutes into the third on a Kaylee Best 3-pointer. From there, the game stayed close. Best, who had 18 points, hit four 3-pointers in the third quarter, while Hall countered with two of her own in the period.

In the fourth quarter, Seattle's Wilma Afunugo had a pair of big putbacks, including one off a Best miss that put the Redhawks up 59-58 with 1:25 to play. Afunugo finished with game-highs of 19 points and 15 rebounds, including 11 offensive boards.

But as it had done all night, UVU fought back. Following empty possessions from both teams, the Wolverines got the ball to Hall in the corner, where she was fouled by Seattle's Alexis Montgomery with 21 seconds to play.

That set up the final-second heroics.

"When you come in as the whatever seed we were, people don't give you much of a chance," Nixon said. "But I hope after 80 minutes, people have a different perspective of that. These kids put themselves in a situation where they deserve that."

The Redhawks face top seed New Mexico State (23-6) in the championship game Saturday at 4 p.m. MST. The Aggies, who went undefeated in regular-season play, beat Missouri-Kansas City 71-63 in Friday’s other semifinal.