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Perfect fit: Brenna Chase helping BYU women's basketball team exceed expectations

PROVO — Since the first time Brenna Chase rushed the field at LaVell Edwards Stadium following one of the most spectacular comeback wins in recent football history, she's felt right at home at BYU.

The year was 2015, and Chase was on an official recruiting trip to BYU in early September. As part of the visit, she attended the football game pitting the Cougars against Boise State. It was the game where quarterback Tanner Mangum engineered a thrilling comeback victory that left fans in attendance overjoyed, and even some yet-to-be fans, like Chase.

"Tanner threw the Hail Mary for the win, we rushed the field and it was so fun," Chase recalled. "I love football, and that game was sort of out of a dream. I loved it and I loved my visit so much. I felt right at home despite not being all that familiar with BYU going in."

Chase hails from the Denver area and was well recruited by several local and regional schools before BYU jumped into the recruiting process just prior to her senior season.

"It was my last summer playing club ball when Juddy (BYU coach Jeff Judkins) called me when I was in the airport getting ready to board a plane," Chase said. "I couldn't talk much because I was just boarding a plane, but then he called me after from a satellite phone because Juddy was in the Uintah (Mountains), so that really impressed me, and we really hit it off."

Judkins first learned of Chase and her abilities from Colorado coaches who didn't have room for her, but encouraged Judkins to take an interest. Judkins made a trip to go watch her play, as a result, and came away impressed.

"When I watched her I just thought, 'She's perfect for us,'" Judkins said. "She can handle the ball, she can shoot it, she can drive, and she can pass it. She's really tough and she's smart. She has a good feel."

Attracting members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to BYU eases the process considerably in most cases, but considering Chase isn’t a member of the religion that sponsors the school, it could be assumed that might have worked against Judkins’ favor. But for Chase, BYU matched up perfectly with her standards and her background attending a Catholic school while not being of that faith.

Brigham Young Cougars guard Brenna Chase (1) is fouled by Pepperdine Waves guard Barbara Sitanggan (23)  in Provo on Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019.
BYU guard Brenna Chase is fouled by Pepperdine Waves guard Barbara Sitanggan in Provo on Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

"I love it here," Chase said. "It fits who I am and I knew that coming in. I love the coaches, my teammates, and coming here was the best decision I've ever made."

Judkins and her teammates love the junior 5-foot-9 guard being part of BYU's program as well. After playing sparsely as a freshman, she's risen to become one of the key contributors on this year's team and often the player Judkins can least afford off the floor during any given game's 40 minutes of play.

"Everybody thinks she's a great scorer, and she is, but she does so many other things," Judkins said. "She's a leader on the court. She's one of our best defenders. She passes the ball well and she really does everything. When she's not out there, you know it. She's a coach on the floor."

This season, Chase has played a central role in the team exceeding just about everyone's expectations. The Cougars sit at 16-3 overall and more importantly, are 8-0 in West Coast Conference play.

Judkins' team validated its sterling record considerably this past week when defeating then No. 13 Gonzaga in a thrilling game that went down to the wire. As always, Chase played big in the 70-68 nail-biter that firmly placed the Cougars as the WCC team to beat for the remainder of the year.

"We've really worked for this and we knew that we can do this," Chase said following the win. "I know it's crazy, and that we had a lot of fun, but we knew we could do this. We know we're a good team and that we can win this conference."

Regardless of how the season plays out, recent history shows Chase will do her part in helping the Cougars achieve even more.

"She's so important to what we do and what we are, as a team. I'm lucky to have her," Judkins said.