Free throws help Mavs top Western

Hanna Bowden almost got knocked to the floor chest-bumping Chrissy Armstrong.

Leanndra Gilbert jumped into the arms of Amy Weitzeil as 1,490 fans screamed their approval Saturday night at Brownson Arena.

Overtime wins against rivals with playoffs spots in the balance will do that.

Colorado Mesa University’s women’s basketball team used free throws — yes, free throws — down the stretch to claim a thrilling 71-70 win over Western State in front of a standing-room-only crowd. It kept the Mavericks (12-12, 10-10 RMAC) in the thick of the race for a playoff spot.

“Great atmosphere,” CMU coach Roger Walters said. “Where else can you go to play in front of a fan base like this? It was spectacular.”

And the team that is shooting only 63 percent from the free-throw line this season, made 13 of 18 (72.2 percent), six of nine in the final 2:30 of regulation and one crucial one in overtime.

Kelsey Sigl hit the front end of a two-shot foul, the final point of the game, when she was fouled under the basket after Katrina Selsor (13 points, 7 assists) found her open on the back side.

“Here’s the deal,” Walters said. “We don’t shoot 72 percent, we don’t win. That’s the story of the season. We’ve lost seven games by five points or less, two overtimes, and we shoot 62 percent. We have to shoot free throws and we did make some clutch ones down the stretch, which was gigantic.”

The Mavericks missed their first seven shots and turned the ball over 10 times in the first half.

“We self-inflict so many of those turnovers, myself included,” Sigl said. “We had trouble coming out with energy, but after a couple of minutes we got on a run and the momentum shifted and the game was in our hands … unless we turned the ball over.”

“I can’t explain it. We preach eye contact, we preach two-hand catch, we preach throwing strikes,” Walters said. “It’s unbelievable, it’s not what we do in practice. I can’t explain it.”

Down 20-6 a dozen minutes into the game, the Mavericks finally got some movement going offensively, with Bowden finding Sigl on the back side for a layup. That triggered a 14-4 run, with Sigl hitting a 3 trailing the break and Weitzeil a shot from a half-step inside the 3-point line at the top of the key to cut it to 26-23 at the 1:17 mark.

Sigl made a pair of free throws with 13 seconds left after Bowden grabbed an offensive rebound off a missed 3 by Alaina Brennan and again spied Sigl cutting through the lane.

The Mountaineers double-teamed Sigl early in the post and made sure they knew where Selsor was on the floor. Sigl scored 11 of her 26 points in the first half and Bowden, who came off the bench for Brennan, who got the start on senior night, had eight first-half rebounds, five offensive and 11 in the game.

The Mavericks were fractions of a second from winning the game in regulation after Western State’s Nikki Trujillo (27 points) hit a 3 with 2.3 seconds left to tie it at 66-66.

Mesa had the play, with Brennan’s softball pass to Sigl above the key getting bobbled momentarily before she fired a pass to Gehring in the corner.

“She’s a softball player and that was a bullet,” Sigl said. “It worked out well, we just ran out of time.”

Gehring’s 3-pointer left her hands after the clock sounded, but it was so loud the fans didn’t hear it, celebrating wildly when it hit nothing but net.

The Mavs got down quickly in overtime, but Selsor and Sigl took over. Selsor drove for a layup and Sigl grabbed an offensive rebound and scored to tie the game at 70-70 with 2:31 left.

After Selsor latched onto a rebound when Trujillo missed a jumper, she got the ball to Sigl for what ended up being the clinching play.

The Mavs drew some late energy from the crowd, which stood and roared the entire overtime.

“Unreal,” Sigl said. “There’s no better way for our seniors to go out. I’m so happy that’s how they leave Mesa.”


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