In only her first full season as head coach of her alma mater, Teresa Weatherspoon and her Lady Techsters have won the 2010 Western Athletic Conferecnce Championship will be “dancing” all the way to San Antonio.
Techsters Going Dancing
LA Tech claims WAC Championship title
RENO – Sophomore guard Jasmine Bendolph drained an 18-foot jumper with 34 seconds to play to give Louisiana Tech the lead and the Lady Techsters got the defensive stops they needed down the stretch to defeat Fresno State 68-66 in the championship game of the 2010 Western Athletic Conference Tournament Saturday afternoon at Lawlor Events Center.
With Tech trailing 66-65 and the shot clock running down, Bendolph calmly sank the jumper from the top of the key as the Lady Techsters snapped Fresno State’s 19-game winning streak and earned the automatic berth into the 2010 NCAA Tournament – Tech’s first since 2006.
“Our kids played their hearts out today,” said Tech head coach Teresa Weatherspoon. “We played a tough Nevada team (Friday) and a tough Fresno State team who is very aggressive, but our team doesn’t give up. They’re resilient and they fought hard. Today we wanted it more.”
The victory didn’t come easy as the final 30 seconds of regulation was filled with opportunities for both teams. After Tech took the one-point lead on Bendolph’s jumper, Fresno State forward Joh-Teena Filipe missed a three-pointer with 14 seconds to play and Whitney Jones pulled won the defensive rebound and was fouled.
Jones then missed the front end of a one-and-one and Fresno State pulled the defensive rebound down but Tech guard Tarkeisha Wysinger picked the pocket of Bulldog guard Jaleesa Ross, knocking the loose basketball to Shanavia Dowdell.
Dowdell, who was named the WAC Tournament MVP scoring 20 points and grabbing 19 rebounds in the win, stepped to the free throw line with 6.3 seconds to play and calmly sank the first free throw to push the advantage to 68-66.
However, Dowdell missed the second free throw and Fresno State had one last opportunity. Buldlog guard LeShay Fears took an outlet pass around midcourt and drove down the right side of the lane but misfired on a last second shot sending the Tech bench into a wild celebration on the floor.
“Congratulations to Louisiana Tech,” said Fresno State coach Adrian Wiggins. “It was a good tournament win for them. It was a hard-fought game. We just came up short in some areas.”
For the second straight day, Tech (23-8) played a complete basketball game.
From the opening tip, the Lady Techsters executed on both ends of the floor as Tech shot 47 percent (28-60) from the field while holding Fresno State (27-6) to only 34 percent (24-71) shooting. Tech also kept the three-point shooting of Fresno State in check as the Bulldogs hit only 8-of-28 for 29 percent.
Behind Dowdell’s rebounding dominance, Tech won the war of the boards 49-35 in a very physical but well-played basketball game.
“I was getting beat up down there,” Dowdell said. “I had a bloody nose, but I just had to play hard and not give up. I was tired at the end, but as Coach (Weatherspoon) said, this is our season. We all wanted to go to the Big Dance so we just pushed through it.”
In a game that saw six ties and seven lead changes, Tech built a 10-point first half lead at 33-23 as Dowdell knocked down a three-pointer at the 4:00 minute mark of the opening half. But the Bulldogs would answer, using a 14-3 run to close the half as Fresno State held a 37-36 lead heading into the halftime locker room.
Tech came out of the half on fire though, as junior guard Whitney Jones hit back-to-back three-pointers in the first two minutes of the second half to spark a 10-0 Lady Techster run that gave them a 46-37 advantage.
The two teams continued to exchange punches like a heavyweight fight as Fresno State fougth back to take the lead at 59-58 on a three-point play by Hayley Munro with 8:40 to play.
After Ross gave the Bulldogs a 61-58 lead on a basket on their next possession, Tech guard Brietta Thomas drained a three-pointer with 7:40 left to tie the game at 61-61. Neither team would lead by more than two points the rest of the game.
“It was a great game,” Wiggins said. “They’re physical and teams are physical in the NCAA Tournament. It was a reminder of how physical the game can be. We got outrebounded by 14 and that’s not acceptable.”
In addition to Dowdell’s big night, Jones added 13 points, six rebounds and five assists while Adrienne Johnson scored 10 points and grabbed nine rebounds. Wysinger also added 10 points, six rebounds, three assists and two steals. Thomas finished with nine points.
With the victory, Tech clinched its 16th conference tournament title in program history – its fifth WAC Tournament title in nine years – and will play in its 26th NCAA Tournament.
Story & Photos originally posted by wacsports.com
Additional photo provided by LaTechSports.com