(Editor's note: UW Athletics release)
LAS VEGAS, Nev. – For the time in program history, the Wyoming Cowgirls have won a postseason conference tournament as the seventh-seeded Cowgirls culminated their incredible Mountain West Tournament run by defeating No. 4 seed Fresno State, 59-56 in an all-time classic. The win gives Wyoming the Mountain West's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, which will be the Cowgirls second trip the NCAAs in program history. Wyoming last made the "Big Dance" back in 2008 where it lost to Pittsburgh.
Alba Sanchez Ramos' blocked shot of MW Player of the Year Haley Cavinder with one second remaining secured the victory for the Cowgirls. Sanchez Ramos' final line was eight points, seven rebounds, four assists and that game-sealing block.
"I'm out of words right now," said Head Coach Gerald Mattinson.
"The effort that they put into this and the way they've played during this stretch, it speaks so highly of them. Who they are and what they've become, the toughness that this team has shown and that they play with, it's a credit to them."
Both teams got out to strong starts in the contest, but Fresno State hit five of its first eight shots and had a 14-10 lead at the first quarter media timeout. After the timeout, both teams went on three-plus minute scoring droughts before finding their rhythms late in the frame, as the Bulldogs extended their lead to 22-16 after one.
After the Bulldogs built up a 24-16 lead, back-to-back hoops and a sweet assist from McKinley Bradshaw got the Cowgirls back to within one, 24-23 with seven minutes to play in the half. Out of the media timeout in the quarter, a pair of Bradshaw free throws gave Wyoming its first lead of the game, 25-24. From that point, the Cowgirls continued their big run to end the quarter, going on a 16-0 run the final 8:50 of the frame and took a 32-24 lead into the break. Fresno State scored just two points in the second quarter.
In the third, Fresno State came out looking to make a run and cut into the Wyoming lead, but the Cowgirls found their footing and led 41-33 at the media, with Grace Ellis heading to the line to shoot one free throw. The Bulldogs would go on a run later in the frame, cutting the Wyoming lead down to 42-39. The Cowgirls would promptly score five straight to extend their lead back up before Fresno ended the quarter with a hoop to make it 47-41 Cowgirls after three complete.
A Jaye Johnson corner 3-pointer opened the scoring in the fourth and put Wyoming up 50-41. The Cowgirls called a timeout after a couple of shaky possessions offensively with 7:30 remaining in the contest and up by the same margin. Out of the timeout, the Bulldogs went on a run, outscoring the Cowgirls 9-2 over a stretch where Wyoming went without a field goal for over five minutes before a Grace Ellis layup ended the drought with UW up 54-50 with under four to play.
Bradshaw drilled a corner 3-pointer with 3:31 to go and Wyoming was back up seven, 57-50. The three-ball was followed by a Fresno State foul with 2:53 left, which led to the final media timeout of the game. Fresno State would show its mettle from there however, scoring six straight to cut the Wyoming lead down to just one with 32 seconds remaining.
Fresno had a chance to take the lead but missed a layup attempt with six seconds left and were forced to foul Grace Ellis. Ellis went to the line and calmly knocked down both free throws to make it 59-56 with three seconds remaining. The Bulldogs took a timeout to advance the ball but Sanchez Ramos' defensive play thwarted FSU's final chance.
Quinn Weidemann, who was named the Tournament's Most Valuable Player postgame, led the Cowgirls with 14 points and drilled four 3-pointers in the win. Weidemann also added four assists and four boards on the night. Bradshaw was the other Cowgirl in double figures as she added 13 off the bench while Ellis tied a career-high with nine points and grabbed a career-best five boards. Tommi Olson, who joined Weidemann on the All-Tournament Team, had three points, six rebounds, four assists and a steal.
Wyoming shot 39.6 percent for the game and hit 9-of-24 (37.5 percent) from 3-point range while the Bulldogs shot 36.5 percent overall and went just 4-of-15 from beyond-the-arc. FSU outscored the Cowgirls 14-3 in points off turnovers and 32-20 in points in the paint while UW got 22 bench points and only starters scored for the Bulldogs.
"I'm happy for all of our fans, I'm happy for Tom (Burman), all of our administration and obviously the school and all of our fans. I'm just excited for everybody," continued Mattinson.
The Cowgirls now await to see who they will face at the NCAA Tournament. The Women's NCAA Selection Show is set for Monday night at 5 p.m., Mountain Time and can be seen on ESPN.