With time running out on the Redhawks’ season, Crystal Allen rose over a defender and drained an improbable off-balance three-pointer with 2.7 seconds left to force overtime.
LAS VEGAS — With time running out on the Redhawks’ season, Crystal Allen rose over a defender and drained an improbable off-balance three-pointer with 2.7 seconds left to force overtime.
“Biggest shot in my career,” she said. “I did not want our season to be over. I knew I had to make a three in order for us to go into overtime, and that was our only hope.”
In the extra period, Taelor Ross sank a layup that gave the Redhawks a two-point lead with 99 seconds remaining. However, the No. 4 seed Seattle University women’s basketball team faltered down the stretch in a 79-75 overtime loss to top-seeded New Mexico State in the WAC tournament semifinal.
“You don’t need to beat somebody 10 times,” said coach Joan Bonvicini, noting SU’s two regular-season defeats to the Aggies. “You only need to beat them once. … We had our shots.”
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Friday’s midday showdown at Orleans Arena had a little bit of everything, including 15 lead changes, an improbable hero in Allen and a star-studded matchup in the post between Ross and New Mexico State sophomore forward Brianna Freeman, the conference MVP.
After tallying 22 points and 14 rebounds in Wednesday’s 64-62 win over Utah State in the quarterfinals, Ross dominated New Mexico State early. She had 13 points and seven rebounds in the first half while leading the Redhawks to a 35-30 lead.
“She’s playing the best basketball of her career,” Bonvicini said about Ross, a 6-foot-2 junior center from Vancouver, Wash.
Still the second-team all-conference standout struggled early in second half, and to its detriment, Seattle U mimicked its budding star.
The Aggies blitzed the Redhawks with an 18-0 run that turned SU’s five-point halftime advantage into a 13-point deficit in a little less than 3½ minutes.
“We did not start the second half well,” Bonvicini said. “That was hard. … But finally we showed a lot of heart and determination and came together. We made a great run at the end of regulation.”
After Allen’s three-pointer forced overtime and Ross’ layup put SU on top in the extra period, the Redhawks were outscored 8-2 in the final 85 seconds.
Ross and Allen each finished with 21 points, while New Mexico State had five players in double figures including Sasha Weber, who scored a game-high 22 points. Freeman finished with 19 points and 16 rebounds for New Mexico State (20-7), which meets Texas-Pan American (19-13) in Saturday’s tournament title game.
Meanwhile, Seattle U finished 10-21. It was the final game for seniors Renee Dillard-Brown and Makenna Clark.
“We improved a lot,” said Ross, who collected a career-high 17 rebounds. “We played some of our best basketball these past couple of days. We only hit the surface and shown what we can do. We’re a young team. We’re new, but I think this was a good opportunity more than anything.
“I’m really proud of these girls, and I’m really excited to see what we can do in the future.”