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Senior Joel Bolomboy attempts to get past Portland State defense to drive the ball in the net. (Ariana Berkemeir / The Signpost)

In their first game of the tournament Weber State was able to fend off a physical Portland State team 78-74 to advance in the Big Sky tournament.

The game for the Wildcats was like many others they have played this season.

It started with a quick lead that WSU held until more than halfway through the second half. At 8:21 in the second half, Portland State took its first lead, 61-60.

The last eight minutes were some of the most intense the Wildcats have played all year. In those final eight minutes there were six lead changes as both teams refused to give up.

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Senior Joel Bolomboy looks for an open teammate to pass to during the game against Portland State on March 10. (Ariana Berkemeier / The Signpost)

Both teams had trouble with fouls. Wildcats Joel Bolomboy and McKay Cannon both racked up four fouls, as did three Vikings. One of the Vikings in foul trouble was Cameron Forte, who scored 25 points against the Wildcats.

That was why with just 17 seconds left in the game with Weber State leading 75-74, Portland State decided the best plan was to have Forte shoot. Forte has led the Vikings all season and is the team’s best scorer.

“I’d throw it to him at the hotel, I’d throw it to him at the airport, I’d throw it to him everywhere,” WSU head coach Randy Rahe said of Forte.

He never got the chance though, as Cannon came in and stole the ball from Forte and passed it to sophomore guard Ryan Richardson. That led to Richardson making a pair of free throws, icing the game.

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Wildcats cheer on their former teammates during a nail-bitter quarterfinal against Portland State. (Ariana Berkemeier / The Signpost)

Richardson ended the game as the scoring leader with 21 points, the majority coming off of five 3-pointers. Following Richardson was Jeremy Senglin with 16 points, Bolomboy and Zach Braxton with 12 each and Cannon who added on 11 more points.

The assist leader was Cannon, who dished out five assists in the game. Richardson and Senglin added four assists each. Cannon also added in three steals, including the game clincher, to finish one of his best games of the year.

“We made enough plays at the end to win the game. Right now it doesn’t matter if it was pretty,” Rahe said. “It was ugly, it just doesn’t matter.”

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Freshman Zach Braxton shots a free-throw during the first half of the game against Portland State. (Ariana Berkemeier / The Signpost)

The game helped keep up the spirit of March Madness that has prevailed in Reno during the Big Sky Conference Championship Tournament. Just one day prior in the women’s tournament, No. 8-ranked Idaho State beat No. 1 ranked Montana State on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer.

“I’m just thinking, ‘Man, this is fun,'” Richardson said of his experience in the tournament thus far. “I’m just thankful I have an opportunity to play in this situation with these guys. They’re like my brothers.”

Weber State will continue in the tournament Friday night against University of North Dakota at 5:45 p.m. Mountain time.

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