Boise State Basketball

Historic and undefeated start for Boise State women’s basketball team not by accident

The Boise State women’s basketball team is off to its best start in 41 years and is hoping to return to the NCAA Tournament after a one-year hiatus. “That’s everything. It’s pushing us forward. We want to get to the (Mountain West) Tournament, win the tournament and go to the NCAA Tournament,” junior Shalen Shaw said.
The Boise State women’s basketball team is off to its best start in 41 years and is hoping to return to the NCAA Tournament after a one-year hiatus. “That’s everything. It’s pushing us forward. We want to get to the (Mountain West) Tournament, win the tournament and go to the NCAA Tournament,” junior Shalen Shaw said. doswald@idahostatesman.com

While he isn’t trying to get ahead of himself in terms of numbers and projections, Boise State women’s basketball coach Gordy Presnell grasps the fact that he’s leading a special group.

The offical RPI (Ratings Percentage Index) doesn’t come out for another month. In the meantime, there are unofficial projections that show the Broncos as a top 10 team in the nation. And, much to his delight, his team is ranked in the top 18 in the nation by another important metric.

A perfect record.

Boise State senior Brooke Pahukoa believes the family aspect of the Broncos is a big reason why her team is just one of 18 in the nation that is still undefeated.

“You go into each game wanting to win, but I didn’t know maybe we’d be right here right now. But I’m glad we are,” said Presnell, who has 599 wins in 30 years as a coach. “We have a great group of seniors, and we want to be with them as long as we can.”

The Broncos are 8-0 after a 71-40 win over Division II Concordia on Wednesday night at Taco Bell Arena. It is the program’s best start since the 1971-72 team also began 8-0 and is tied for the third-best start in school history behind the 1973-74 team (11-0) and 1974-75 team (12-0).

The Broncos are one of 18 teams in the nation and the only one in the Mountain West that remains undefeated.

Junior Shalen Shaw is determined to bring the undefeated Broncos back to the NCAA Tournament

“That’s actually really awesome. I’m super proud of my team,” junior forward Shalen Shaw said. “We’re doing great as a team playing together. That’s awesome that we’re in the top.”

The Broncos’ record faced a scare Sunday at Washington State. The Broncos held a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter but were forced into overtime. But as has been the case many times this year, Presnell’s team didn’t flinch.

The team has played five games decided by five points or less, and the Broncos have gone to overtime twice.

Boise State defeated Washington State 77-73.

Boise State sophomore Marta Hermida talks about the undefeated Broncos' start and the team's family atmosphere.

“It was a lot of fun but real stressful. But I’m from that area, so it was a great environment,” said Presnell, who is from northern Idaho and coached at Seattle Pacific for 18 years. “Our kids were really mentally tough, and I thought they just handled themselves real well. It got close down the stretch and they executed. It takes leadership and belief. And our three seniors, we have a lot of real strong leadership and a lot of grit.”

That trio of seniors, led by star guard Brooke Pahukoa, have been instrumental to winning close games. Pahukoa, along with her sister Brittney and guard Yaiza Rodriguez, lead a veteran team that returned four starters from last year. Presnell has started the same starting five every game.

“We lift each other up,” Brooke Pahukoa said. “And really, I think that’s what makes us so solid.”

Of course, there are stats that dictate success. Boise State is No. 14 in the nation in 3-point shooting (41.2 percent). Brooke Pahukoa leads the team at 43.9 percent; four teammates rank in the top 15 in the conference.

As well as they are shooting from 3-point range now, Presnell has seen the other end of the spectrum. In last year’s Mountain West Tournament, the No. 3-seeded Broncos shot 10-for-42 from behind the arc and were bounced in the first round by No. 6 UNLV.

While being dependent on the long ball is nerve-wracking, Presnell knows that’s what his team does best. So far, so good.

“It scares you, but it’s a style that the kids love to play and it creates some fun for them and it’s something they buy into. And we’ll keep doing it,” Presnell said. “If we can recruit a 6-foot-8 post, we’ll do that, too.”

Great shooting is one key to success. But it takes more than that to build a great basketball team. It takes chemistry and genuine friendships.

“Individually, some of the highest character people I’ve ever been friends with,” Brooke Pahukoa said. “Everyone’s so genuine. Everyone really, genuinely enjoys each other’s company and wants what’s best for each other.”

Said sophomore guard Marta Hermida: “We’re more than a team. We’re almost a family. We are really, really close. We’re not five fingers. We are just a fist, all together.”

The Broncos put their undefeated record on the line against No. 11 Washington in Seattle on Sunday. The Huskies were a Final Four team a year ago and have already notched a win against a ranked Missouri. If Boise State is going to creep closer to the school record for wins to start a season, it’s hardly going to be a walk in the park.

But Presnell might just have the cast to do it.

“This is my 30th women’s basketball (team). And this is as good a group as we’ve ever had, in terms of just getting along and being good people and being good citizens and being representatives of the institution. They believe in Boise State,” Presnell said.

“It’s been a lot of fun.”

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