Fresno St. wins WAC on Bree Farley's buzzer-beater

LAS VEGAS -- Fresno State has what it calls special teams, a football-inspired group that comes into games during specific situations.

Freshman reserve guard Bree Farley is a part of the team that comes in for late-half and late-game situations, in part because of her ability to score at the basket.

Though Farley occasionally misses the shot in practice, she came through at the biggest moment of the season, sending the Bulldogs into the NCAA tournament for the fifth straight season.

Tournament MVP Jaleesa Ross scored 17 of her 23 points in the second half to help Fresno State withstand a big Louisiana Tech rally and Farley had the crowning moment with a turnaround with less than a second left, lifting the Bulldogs to a 78-76 win over the Lady Techsters Saturday in the Western Athletic Conference title game.

"I really thought that it would lip out," said Farley, who missed her two previous shots and played just 9 minutes. "We've been practicing it, but honestly, in training sometimes I miss it. I'm happy that it worked out when it mattered."

Fresno State (25-7) lost to the Lady Techsters in last year's WAC title game and again in a pair of overtime games during the regular season.

Fighting back and forth with their rival and nemesis, the Bulldogs led by six late, but allowed LaTech to tie it on Whitney Jones' stepback 3-pointer with 4 seconds left. Looking at the possibility of a third straight overtime game against the Lady Techsters, Fresno State dribbled the ball to midcourt and called timeout with 2.9 seconds left.

The Bulldogs got the ball into Farley down in the post and, with a quick spin and a kiss off the glass, she reserved Fresno State's spot in the NCAA tournament.

A reserve guard who averages 4.6 points with the season on the line?

That's just how Fresno State coach Adrian Wiggins drew it up.

"We worked on that play all year; we worked on it before we went to the WAC tournament," Wiggins said. "I know you won't believe me, but that's exactly what happened."

Farley's moment briefly spoiled Louisiana Tech's impressive season.

The Lady Techsters (24-7) rallied from an 11-point halftime deficit with a huge run to open the second half, then fought back again down the stretch after falling behind by six with just over a minute left.

LaTech had a defensive breakdown and couldn't stop Farley, but 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.

"If you took a look at what we've done, how could you leave us out?" LaTech coach Teresa Weatherspoon said. "I think our kids have done a tremendous job all season long. They fought, scratched, clawed and if you watched this game, how could you leave us out?"

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.

"We have a big rivalry with them," Johnson said. "We knew it was going to be a tough game."

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 in the corner. 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.

"It was one of those things that was so neat because we had worked so hard on it," Farley said. "I'm glad it worked out."