Rams Outlast Rival Cowgirls in 3OT, Reach Tourney Final

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LAS VEGAS - In the first three-overtime game in the history of the Reese's Mountain West Basketball Championship, men's or women's, top-seeded Colorado State outlasted rival and fifth-seeded Wyoming 95-92 in the first of two women's semifinal contests on Friday afternoon at the Thomas & Mack Center.

The victory moves the Rams (25-6) one game within their first MW tournament title since 2001. Colorado State will take on either No. 3 seed Nevada (18-12) or No. 2 seed Fresno State (20-10) in Saturday evening's championship game, which is slated for a 7 p.m. PT start and will be televised on CBS Sports Network.

"Just a great college basketball game," said Colorado State head coach Ryun Williams. "I just think you saw two teams that didn't want to lose. There's obviously added intensity when it's a rivalry game. The Border War knows no boundaries or borders, obviously. It came down to kids making plays at the end of the game. Wyoming, they made a lot of big shots. Our kids made a lot of big shots. You just saw a lot of courageous student athletes out there tonight.

"It was fun to be part of it, and proud to be part of it," Williams said. "We respect the heck out of Wyoming. We're happy with the win."

Down 12 at halftime, Wyoming (20-11) slowly chipped away at the deficit, before finally knotting the score at 61-61 with 4.9 seconds remaining in regulation on a pair of free throws by junior guard Kaitlyn Mileto, who finished with 14 points.

In the first overtime period, the two squads traded the lead back-and-forth in the final minute, and just as they did at the close of the second half, the Cowgirls hit a clutch shot in the final seconds of the first overtime to force a second extra period. Senior guard Kaylee Hoffman's pull-up jumper from the left wing with five seconds remaining evened the score at 73-73, sending the game into a second overtime, marking the first-ever such affair in the MW women's tournament.

The game's drama was far from complete, however, as the second overtime saw Wyoming erase a three-point deficit in the final 60 seconds of the five-minute extra session, and once again deadlocked the game when senior guard Chelan Landry fed freshman center Kaylie Rader for a layup with two seconds to go, pulling the Cowgirls even at 84-84.

Colorado State fell behind early in the third overtime, but three points from junior guard Gritt Ryder and a pair of free throws by sophomore guard/forward Hanne Mestdagh finally iced the game for the Rams.

Ryder led the Rams in scoring with 23 points. Senior forward Sam Martin (13 points, 11 rebounds) and freshman guard Ellen Nystrom (16 points, 10 rebounds) each recorded double-doubles. Junior guard AJ Newton (14 points) and freshman forward Elin Gustavsson (18 points) also reached double figures.

For the Cowgirls, Landry and junior forward Kayla Woodward each had 21 points to pace the club. Woodward also added 10 rebounds to her stat line in recording a double-double. Rader ended the afternoon with 12 points and senior guard Fallon Lewis hauled down 16 rebounds to go along with eight points.

"Well, I've only been involved in a three hour basketball game one other time," said Wyoming head coach Joe Legerski. "There's plays to be made, there's plays that are left out on the floor. But, the heart from the players on the floor was just tremendous today."