For his team’s home finale Tuesday night, Boise State women’s basketball coach Gordy Presnell made a unique fashion choice.
Over his dress shirt, Presnell wore a black No. 54 jersey.
Normally, that belongs to Brooke Wheeler. She and Shalen Shaw were honored on senior night at Taco Bell Arena before facing the San Diego State Aztecs.
Having missed the previous 11 games because of injury, Wheeler hoped to be cleared to face San Diego State. But it wasn’t meant to be, as she spent the Broncos’ 64-53 win in street clothes, a boot on her right foot.
“I thought, ‘Shay will take care of the senior on the floor, and I’ll try to take care of the senior off the floor,’ ” Presnell said.
The gesture was a meaningful one, helping inspire the Broncos (19-9 overall, 13-4 Mountain West) to a sixth straight win.
“I don’t cry a lot, but before the game, when he said he was going to put it on, I started tearing up. I was like, ‘Not before the game, Coach,’ ” said sophomore guard Riley Lupfer, who had a game-high 16 points.
Boise State never trailed against San Diego State (11-17, 5-12), taking care of its business, while the Mountain West’s other top teams faltered. The Broncos came into Tuesday third in the conference standings, but leaders Wyoming and UNLV suffered brutal losses. Wyoming fell by 10 to 4-24 Air Force, and UNLV lost by 20 to rival Nevada.
That sets up a high-stakes regular-season finale for the Broncos, who play at Wyoming at 6:30 p.m. Friday. The winner of that game claims at least a share of the conference title and clinches the No. 1 seed in next week’s Mountain West Tournament.
Boise State, Wyoming and UNLV are all 13-4 in conference play.
“A regular-season championship doesn’t get you in the NCAA Tournament in our league, but it’s proof of the grind, proof of the work ethic and the resiliency,” Presnell said. “It certainly would be awesome to be champions, that’s for sure.”
The Broncos have not won a regular-season conference crown since 2008, when they did so in the WAC.
“I like when our destiny is in our hands, so it’s kind of nice these teams are ruining it for themselves. ... (Wyoming) is a big game, no matter what,” Lupfer said. “This past month, we’ve been showing what we should’ve been showing this season.”
In her final home game, Shaw had her 56th game scoring in double figures, pitching in 10 points while pulling down a game-high nine rebounds and adding four assists. She is the only player in school history with at least 1,000 points, 800 rebounds and 200 assists.
Playing on a high school team in Reno that featured strong post players, the 6-foot-1 Shaw learned guard skills, which has benefited the Broncos in a big way. Shaw has played all five positions on the floor, and that versatility has been vital. Perhaps even more key is her selflessness, coming off the bench in some cases last season after starting 29 games as a sophomore.
“When I was little, I played on a team and there was this girl that would never pass me the ball, never pass it to anybody, so I made it a point to not be like her, always look for other people first,” Shaw said.
Said Lupfer: “I think she looks for me too much. She’ll have the ball in the post and be like, ‘Where’s Riley at?’ I’m like, ‘Shay, just score the ball.’ ”
A’Shanti Coleman had 14 points and Braydey Hodgins added 10 points, seven rebounds and three steals for the Broncos.
C of I men win title
For the third time in coach Scott Garson’s five seasons, The College of Idaho men’s basketball team won the Cascade Collegiate Conference tournament. The No. 4 Yotes topped Warner Pacific 75-73 on Tuesday night in Caldwell.
Rocky Mountain High graduate Nate Bruneel led the Yotes with 16 points. Centennial High graduate Talon Pinckney hit 6-of-6 free throws in the final 58 seconds. The College of Idaho (27-6) will play March 7 or 8 in the first round of the NAIA Division II National Championship tournament in Sioux Falls, S.D.
BSU men at San Diego State
The Boise State men’s basketball game in San Diego on Tuesday night ended too late for the print edition. For a complete report on that game from reporter Rachel Roberts, who was at SDSU, please go to IdahoStatesman.com.