· Published: March 12, 2017 Updated: August 03, 2017
Reno, Nev. • Reviewing a basketball season that will end somewhere other than the NCAA Tournament, Weber State coach Randy Rahe praised a team that "never flinched."
The Wildcats wobbled when it really mattered, though. Weber State blew a six-point lead in the last minute of regulation Saturday night in a 93-89 overtime loss to North Dakota in the championship game of the Big Sky Conference tournament at the Reno Events Center.
North Dakota (22-9), the league's regular-season champion, advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in the school's Division I era with a third victory over Weber State this season. The No. 3-seeded Wildcats missed a potential third NCAA trip in four seasons.
"With the roster we had this year, these guys did a hell of a job getting to this point," said Rahe, who expects to receive a postseason invitation of some kind.
The Wildcats appeared to be on their way to the NCAA Tournament, before things unraveled. After forward Kyndahl Hill's two free throws, the Wildcats led 81-75 with 51 seconds left. The Fighting Hawks answered with two free throws and two baskets, including Geno Crandall's tying layup with 7.1 seconds remaining.
During that sequence, Weber State (19-13) lost the ball on an inbounds play and Jeremy Senglin missed a layup. The turnover, charged to Dusty Baker, was critical because UND would have been forced to foul.
"That stuff happens in a tough ballgame, but that was a tough one to take," Rahe said.
Senglin led the Wildcats with 26 points, moving ahead of Bruce Collins as the school's career scoring leader with 2,031 points. Senglin's 10 consecutive points triggered Weber State's 13-0 run in the second half and the Wildcats led 72-61 with 7:26 remaining. But the Hawks held Senglin to three points in the game's last 16 minutes, counting overtime.
North Dakota's defenders changed their strategy and caught Senglin coming off screens. "That makes you give up the ball," he said.
Senglin didn't force shots, but his teammates had trouble exploiting the attention on him. The Wildcats missed nine shots in a row as UND rallied, although Senglin's miss on a drive resulted in Hill's follow-dunk for a 79-75 lead. After tournament MVP Quinton Hooker of UND missed a shot, Hill rebounded the ball and was fouled. His two free throws gave the Wildcats their six-point lead.
In overtime, Jerrick Harding's 3-pointer gave Weber State a brief lead of 84-83, before North Dakota took control.
Hooker finished with 28 points. Hill posted 21 points and 12 rebounds for the Wildcats.