Sophomore point guard Braydey Hodgins picked the perfect time to deliver her best performance of the season.
Hodgins scored a career-high 24 points, including 16 in the second half, to lead the Boise State women’s basketball team to a 67-63 victory over Wyoming and the Broncos’ first Mountain West Conference regular-season championship on Friday in Laramie, Wyo.
Boise State (20-9, 14-4 MW) earns the No. 1 seed in next week’s conference tournament in Las Vegas. The Broncos will open their tournament title defense at 1 p.m. MT Tuesday at the Thomas & Mack Center against the winner of Monday’s game between the conference’s No. 8 and No. 9 seeds.
“There was no better way to do it than essentially having a championship game and being able to go down to Wyoming, get a big win with the elevation and whatever other adversity was thrown at us,” Hodgins said. “I think it says a lot for our team and how far we’ve come and how bad we wanted it.”
The Broncos’ win Friday avenged a 66-51 loss to the Cowgirls (20-9, 13-5) on Jan. 6 at Taco Bell Arena and was just the second victory for the Broncos in Laramie.
On a night when leading scorer Riley Lupfer faced constant double-teams, Hodgins stepped in as the Broncos’ playmaker.
Hodgins, who missed the first four games of the season with a broken hand, made three 3-pointers in the final six minutes of the fourth quarter to help Boise State come back from an eight-point deficit.
“We have a lot of weapons we haven’t uncovered yet, and each game someone else is stepping up,” Hodgins said. “Even when someone is taking away Riley, we’re still able to produce and produce well.”
Hodgins made her first triple coming off a timeout with 6:43 remaining in the game and the Broncos down 58-50. The 3-pointer sparked a 17-5 run for Boise State to close out the fourth quarter.
Senior forward Shalen Shaw came a rebound short of a double-double with 11 points and nine boards, and junior guard Marta Hermida added 10 points, five rebounds and five assists. Freshman Tess Amundsen poured in nine points, going 2-for-3 from 3-point range with four points in the final five minutes.
Hermida was fouled with 2.3 seconds remaining and Boise State leading 65-63. She made both free throws to nullify any chance of a Wyoming stunner at the buzzer.
Boise State started the season with an exhibition loss to NAIA program Carroll College and was 5-5 through its first 10 games. Then the Broncos lost starting post Marijke Vanderschaaf to a season-ending knee injury and later senior post Brooke Wheeler with an ankle injury.
Despite the early adversity, the Broncos finished the regular season with seven straight wins, and their 14 Mountain West victories are the most in program history.
“I think it says a lot for the resiliency and the perseverance of our players. I’ve always felt like there isn’t enough credit given to a regular-season league champion because it’s a grind,” Boise State coach Gordy Presnell said. “You’re gone every weekend, and the Mountain West home sites are difficult to play at and difficult to get to. To be able to do that, it’s a great thing for our players.”