The Weber State University men’s basketball team looked to clinch the regular-season Big Sky Conference title against Northern Arizona University on Saturday night, but fell 71-73 in overtime after coming back from being down by 11 with 1:23 left in regulation.
Despite the loss, the Wildcats will host the Big Sky Tournament over spring break, March 13-15. The Wildcats clinched a share of the Big Sky regular-season title Thursday. According to Big Sky officials, there is no scenario in which the Wildcats would lose a tiebreaker, even if they lose their remaining two games.
Davion Berry led WSU with 23 points and four assists, while Quinton Upshur led NAU and all scorers with 26 points, including the game-winning shot.
“I was proud of our kids for coming back,” said WSU head coach Randy Rahe. “It looked like we were dead in the water a couple of times. They gave themselves an opportunity.”
The game went back and forth, but then the Lumberjacks went on a run. They closed out the first half on an 11-2 run to take a 37-28 lead heading into the locker room.
“I didn’t feel like we were ourselves the first 30 minutes,” Rahe said. “That wasn’t our team in the first half. We were out of it mentally.”
Prior to the game, WSU was 1-7 on the season when trailing at the half, but hadn’t lost to a Big Sky team at home since March 2011 against Eastern Washington University.The Wildcats got themselves into a hole in the second half, as NAU got things going again with a 10-2 run to take a 47-32 lead.
Berry tried his best to take over the game by scoring 20 of his 23 points in the second half, slowly chipping away at the seemingly insurmountable deficit ahead of WSU.
When shots needed to go down, they just weren’t falling. With 1:23 left to go in the game, Upshur made a layup to take a 65-54 lead, making the game look like it was all over.
But WSU would not quit. After a Jeremy Senglin 3-pointer, tough defense and hustle helped the Wildcats get to the line four times in a row, creating a 10-2 run that cut the lead to 64-65 with 24 seconds to go in the game.
WSU fouled Upshur, who made both free throws to extend the lead to three.
Berry then made a layup just a few seconds later to once again make it a one-point game. WSU fouled Upshur again, but he missed his first free throw and made the second to give NAU a two-point lead with 14 seconds to go.
Berry, the man who single-handedly brought his team back from the dead, drove the ball down the lane, got fouled and made the basket to tie the game, and possibly win it, at the stripe.
However, the shot rattled in and out, and an overtime period had to be played.
After the game, Berry was open about how he felt about that time at the free-throw line.
“I had the game in my hands,” he said. “I’m so frustrated with myself right now. I let my guys down.”
However, Rahe was quick to defend the senior guard.
“Dev didn’t let anybody down,” he said. “We don’t have a share of the title this year without him. We’re not in the position that we’re in the stretch of the second half without him. He didn’t let a soul down. If it’s not for him, we don’t have a chance.”
With 2:12 left in overtime, Berry made a free throw to give the Wildcats a 71-70 lead. Neither team scored down the stretch until Upshur brought the ball up with less than 10 seconds to play, fired a tough 3-pointer from the left side and drained it with four seconds left.
In desperation, Berry heaved a shot from beyond halfcourt that banged off the right side of the glass as time expired.
“It hurts,” Berry said. “That’s our second game-winner we’ve had hit against us this year. It sucks the life out of you; it sucks the life out of the building.”
Earlier this season, Dylan Garrity of California State University, Sacramento made a miracle 3-pointer from 75 feet to beat the Wildcats.
“I guess this year we’re just cursed with those last-second shots,” Rahe said. “If we play the way we’re capable of playing, hopefully it wouldn’t come down to that.”
To win the Big Sky outright, WSU needs to win just one of its two remaining games, either at Portland State University on Thursday or against EWU on Saturday.