Fresno St. grabs fifth consecutive title
Farley basket at buzzer gives Bulldogs 78-76 win in title game
LAS VEGAS -- Bree Farley hit a turnaround with less than a second left and Jaleesa Ross scored 17 of her 23 points in the second half, helping Fresno State beat Louisiana Tech 78-76 to reach the NCAA tournament for the fifth consecutive year.
Fresno State (25-7) lost to the Lady Techsters in last year's Western Athletic Conference title game and again in a pair of overtime games during the regular season. The Bulldogs ended the string by withstanding a huge run by LaTech to open the second half and getting one big shot from Farley, a freshman reserve who averages 4.6 points.
Louisiana Tech (24-7) rallied late after falling behind by six, tying it 76-all on Whitney Jones' stepback 3-pointer with 4 seconds left. Even after failing to stop Farley, the Lady Techsters should have a good enough resume to reach the NCAA tournament for the 27th time.
Adrienne Johnson led LaTech with 22 points and Jones had 18.
Louisiana Tech won its eighth regular-season WAC title in 10 years by going 15-1 and outlasted Nevada in the tournament semifinals on Friday for the program's 1,000th victory, joining Tennessee as the only schools to reach the milestone.
Fresno State entered the WAC tournament on an eight-game winning streak to finish a game behind the Lady Techsters, then rallied from a 17-point deficit to beat Utah State by 10 in the semifinals.
Louisiana Tech swept the season series between the teams, though it wasn't easy.
In the first game on Jan. 13 in Fresno, the Lady Techsters made numerous mistakes late in regulation to give Taylor Thompson a shot at a tying 3-point attempt with less than a second left, then needed a 3-pointer by Brietta Thomas with 2.6 seconds left in the third overtime to beat the Bulldogs by two.
A little over two weeks later, Johnson hit 1 of 2 free throws with 3.5 seconds left in regulation to tie it, then scored six of her 26 points in overtime for a six-point win.
It was the third time in four games the WAC's top two teams had gone to overtime - so, yeah, the WAC title game figured to be close, too.
It certainly was early on during a sometimes-raggedy first half filled with missed layups, passes that went out of bounds and bodies hitting the deck.
Fresno State finally started to find an offensive rhythm late in the half, gradually building the lead to 37-26.
Louisiana Tech didn't take long to close the gap.
Forcing turnovers and getting out in transition, the Lady Techsters opened the second half with a 21-4 run, going up 47-41 on a driving layup by Thomas with about 14 minutes left.
Fresno State finally righted itself behind Ross, who hit three 3-pointers to help the Bulldogs pull back ahead by six with just under 5 minutes left.
LaTech pulled to 76-73 on a putback by Kiara Young with 19 seconds left, then forced a turnover by tying up Ross. The Lady Techsters missed on a couple of chances before the loose ball came out to Young, who's 3 was upheld by a video review.
Fresno State took the ball to midcourt and called timeout with 2.9 seconds left, then got the ball into Farley, who's bank shot set off a wild celebration in front of the Bulldogs' bench.