At times in the second half, it looked like Weber State was in control of the game. At the final media timeout, an and-1 by Richaud Gittens put Weber State up 55-48, and the light seemed to be closing on Northern Colorado. However, they scored the next seven points of regulation, and had the chance to win on a last second shot, but Tate Unruh's jumper rimmed out.
Overtime basically followed the same pattern. Davion Berry led with five straight points, and the Bears were playing from behind again. Just when things started to look bleak, down seven with a little over a minute left, they clawed back. Derrick Barden hit a three. After Jordan Richardson hit one of two, Barden scored again. Tevin Svihovec forced a turnover, and then hit a bucket. Just like that, it was 64-63.
But then Berry showed why he is the Big Sky Player of the Year... he hit an acrobatic driving shot, giving the Wildcats the 66-63 lead with 10 seconds left. On the ensuing possession, the Wildcats did a great job at denying Unruh the ball, and Jordan Wilson's prayer at the buzzer went unanswered. 66-63, Weber State headed to the Big Sky championship.
There are many stars for UNC (Cody McDavis playing the best game of his career), but a quick word on Tate Unruh and Derrick Barden. Since I live a little over an hour from Greeley, I've seen them in person 20 times over the last three years. Each of these guys had great UNC careers. Barden's athletic ability was almost unreal at times, and Unruh had the purest shooting stroke I've seen. I'll miss watching those guys.
For Weber State, I'm sure they'll be the first to tell you it wasn't their best game. They couldn't get buckets inside in the second half (Kyle Tresnak was scoreless after halftime), but it's all about surviving and advancing. Freshmen like Richaud Gittens and Kyndahl Hill made big plays, and they'll be great players sooner rather than later. Berry made the plays when it counted. In the end, all that matters and all they care about is they are playing in the title game on their home court, with a trip to the Big Dance on the line.
It is games like this where you are reminded that sports is a zero sum game. Northern Colorado deserves better than a loss and a heartbreaking end to their season, but that is unfortunately what they get, because somebody always has to lose. There are no moral victories in March, but eventually they will be proud of the effort they gave in this game.
That was a heck of basketball game.
Saturday night - North Dakota vs Weber State. Everything the teams have been working for, all comes down to that game. Can't wait to get it started!
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