March 13, 2009
What: Mountain West Conference Championships
When/Where: March 10-14, Las Vegas' Thomas & Mack Center
Friday: Utah 56, Lobos 55
By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
LAS VEGAS -- You almost need to rewind this thing in slow motion to figure out how it got away. How it changed from a dream Lobo win into a nightmare loss.
The New Mexico Lobos seemingly had a win over Utah safely tucked away and looking at a berth in the Mountain West Conference title game. Then suddenly Utes were running off the court celebrating a 56-55 win as Lobos staggered to their bench.
The Lobos went up 46-32 on an Amy Beggin 3-pointer with 10:44 to play before the Utah team that won the MWC regular-season title suddenly started playing like champions. Utah went on an 16-2 run to tie the game at 48-all at the 6:08 mark. The two teams fought tooth-and-nail to the dramatic ending.
Both teams made huge plays and huge mistakes down the stretch before Utah's Morgan Warburton sealed the deal for Utah with a running jumper with four seconds to play. The Utah senior's game-winning shot played on the rim for a long second before bouncing into the hole.
"I was going to shoot the three, but I decided to take it on in," said the MWC Player of The Year. "Luckily, it fell through."
The nightmarish thing about Warburton's shot was it came eight seconds after Beggin missed two free throws at the 12.2 mark that could have pushed UNM up 57-54.
"I stepped up there with confidence and both of them felt good," said Beggin. "It's frustrating to know if I would have hit the free throws, we would have won the game." Beggin finished the season shooting 86.5 percent at the line.
Said Utah coach Elaine Elliott: "Amy is so amazing. She's the reason they are in the position they're in. I feel for any great player like that."
The loss leaves UNM at 22-10 on the year and in the same spot as the UNM men, who lost to Wyoming on Thursday. Flanagan and his Lobos will have to wait until Monday to see if they get an NCAA berth. If they do, the Lobos will open NCAA Tournament play next week in The Pit. If the Lobos do not get the call, they'll likely fall into the WNIT field and most likely open that tourney on the road.
"I think we have the ability to play with NCAA teams," said Flanagan. "If I was on the committee, I'd vote for us."
A win over Utah would have been a nice addition to UNM's resume. The loss to Utah was a crusher on so many levels. The Utes probably are the Lobos' top rival in the MWC. The win gave Utah a 3-0 mark against the Lobos in 2009. And there really didn't appear to be any way the Utes would win this game.
The Lobos were doing a solid defensive job on Warburton and Kalee Whipple. But the Utes suddenly went into overdrive and began playing with the desperation that comes when defeat is beckoning. The Utes also got some huge shots from some role players off the bench as Sasha McKinnon and Josi McDermott came in to hit two treys apiece.
It was McKinnon's trey at 6:39 that pulled Utah to 48-46. McDermott then hit a two-pointer to tie the game at 48-all and Flanagan called a timeout.
"It was tough at the end," said Flanagan. "We needed to execute a little better. "They (Utes) do seem to have a great deal of poise. I thought we played darn well. We just didn't make some shots that normally we make. I'll take that effort."
The Lobos' effort was always 100 percent. The Utes played hard, too, just not that well until the final 10:44.
The Utah went from a 48-all tie to a 51-48 lead on a 3-pointer by McKinnon. That made the Utah run 19-to-2. Halasz pulled UNM to 51-50 going into a media break at 3:44. Whipple hit a single free throw to push Utah up 52-50. Georonika Jackson hit a set shot off a Beggin pass to tie the game at 52-all with 2:44 to go. Whipple then scored underneath on a follow to put Utah up 54-52.
Halasz hit a single free throw at 1:24 and Hartill scored with 37 seconds to go to push UNM up 55-54. Warburton missed for Utah but the Utes got the rebound and then Halasz came up with a steal and was fouled on a loose-ball play that did not send her to the line. Actually, that was good for UNM as they got the ball and burned the clock down to 12.2 seconds before Beggin was fouled and went to the line.
The Lobos' best free throw shooter then missed, leading to Warburton's heriocs at the end. "It was a nice shot by her," said Beggin, of Warburton's drive down the lane and the short jumper that rattled in. Said Flanagan: "They got the ball in the best player's hands (Warburton) and she converted."
Beggin led all scorers with 16 points and was joined in double figures by Hartill with 13 and Amanda Adamson with ten. Eileen Weissmann had six points and seven rebounds. The Lobos shot 38 percent from the field, 32 percent in the second half. They were 9-of-17 from the line.
Utah got 14 points from Whipple and 13 from Warburton. King added ten points and seven rebounds. Whipple had eight boards and Warburton had six. Utah outrebounded UNM 39-29. Utah had 12 turnovers and UNM had six miscues. Utah got 17 points off its bench and UNM got 10 points from its subs.
The Lobos ran their 30-20 halftime lead to 33-20 on an Adamson trey that came off the glass. Beggin followed that with another trey and UNM held a 36-20 lead. Beggin also hit a trey to form UNM's 46-32 lead at 10:44 before Utah went on its 16-2 run.
The Lobos got the first-half start they wanted: good for them, bad for Utes.
Utah came out and looked flustered early, forcing shots against the tight UNM defense. The Lobos jumped up 4-0 and then 13-2 on back-to-back 3-pointers by Beggin and Hartill. At the 14:41 media break, the Lobos were up 13-4. Hartill was very active for UNM early hitting six points.
Hartill came out of the break to throw up a head fake followed by a drive for a layup and a 15-4 UNM lead. Amanda Adamson drove the lane for a layup and the Lobos were up 17-4 at the 11:56 break. Utah was shooting 2-of-12 from the field and UNM was 6-of-9. The Utes had four turnovers to one for UNM.
Eileen Weissman pushed UNM up 18-4 at 10:52 with a single free throw. Utah got a big trey from Whipple to cut it to 18-7. Adamson came down and answered with a big Lobo trey off a a Best feed and UNM was up 21-7. Utah scored four straight to cut their hole to 21-11. The score stayed there at the 7:49 mark. UNM was shooting 7-of-16 at that point, 43.8 percent. Utah was 4-of-16, 25 percent.
The Utes came out of the break and got a layup from Deanne Stevenson to extend their run to six points. UNM was up 21-13. Weissmann finally quieted the Utah run with a trey and UNM was up 24-13. Hartill threw a spin move in the paint and UNM extended to 26-13.
The Utes cut the Lobo lead to 26-15, had the ball, and called a 30-second timeout at 4:23 -- down 11 points. Warburton came out and banged in a trey: 26-18. Weissmann answered again with a layup, off a Hartill pass and that 28-18 count carried into the final media break of the half at 3:14.
Beggin created a short jumper to give UNM a 30-20 halftime lead. The Lobos got 10 points from Hartill in the half and seven from Adamson. Utah got five apiece from Warburton and Whipple. UNM shot 44 percent in the first half to 30.8 percent for Utah.
Editor's Note: Richard Stevens is a former Associate Sports Editor and sports columnist for The Albuquerque Tribune. You can reach him at email@example.com. Previous articles are available at The Richard Stevens Corner