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Boise State upsets Hawai’i

DARRELL MOODY
Appeal Sports Writer

RENO – Michelle Hessing was a non-factor in the first half against Hawai’i, but she made her presence felt in the final 20 minutes.

The 6-foot-2 Hessing scored 15 of her game-high 17 points in the second half, leading sixth-seeded Boise State to a 72-63 come-from-behind upset of the third-seeded Rainbow Wahine in a quarterfinal game of the Western Athletic Conference’s women’s tournament Wednesday at Lawlor Events Center.

The win improved the Broncos’ record to 15-14, guaranteeing the Broncos of no worse than a .500 season under first-year head coach Gordy Presnell. Hawai’i finished the season at 18-10.

“In the first half nothing was falling,” said Hessing, who was 1-for-2 from the floor and 0-for-2 from the line and helped her team rebound from a 13-point first-half deficit. “I told myself that they couldn’t stop me, and it’s my game.”

“They did a better job spreading us out,” Hawai’i coach Jim Bolla. “They isolated her (Hessing) and we continued to play behind her. She uses what she has to her advantage.”

In one stretch of the second half, Hessing scored 11 straight Boise points, and they were all critical. Hessing started her run with a layup to give the Broncos a 55-46 lead with 8:58 left. After a Hawai’i free throw, Hessing scored in the lane to make it a 10-point game, 57-47. She followed with two free throws with 6:34 left to make it 59-49. Her three-point play nearly two minutes later gave the Broncos their biggest lead of the game, 62-50.

Hawai’i, which shot a miserable 33 percent in the second half, got baskets by Amy Sanders (13 points) and Janevia Taylor (15 points) to cut the lead to 62-54, but a basket by Hessing, who also pulled down 10 rebounds, and two free throws by Jessica Thompson got the lead back up to 12 again with 3:35 left.

“Give Boise State credit,” Bolla said. “They made a good run before the half and really set the tone in the second half. They had four quick offensive rebounds and we never recovered. They played extremely hard and it looked like we felt we could coast through.

“That first half we shot the ball better than we have all year (44.8 percent). We haven’t shot the ball well all season. We can’t live on the outside shot. We passed the ball inside and our post players passed it back out. We weren’t in sync the second half.”

Bolla was referring to a 10-0 run by Boise State late in the first half that started to turn the game in the Broncos’ favor.

Trailing 31-18 with 9:35 left in the first half, Jackie Lee (10 points) knocked in a runner with 8:29 left and added a three-point play at the 7:55 mark. Benita Buggs scored five straight of her own with a 3-pointer and a putback to make it 35-30.

“There was a lot of positive talk and we persevered being down 13 in the first half,” Presnell said.

The Broncos carried that momentum into the second half, going on a 13-2 run to take a 43-37 lead with 15:12 remaining. Buggs scored twice to make it 37-34, and buckets by Rebecca Kepilino and Jessica Thompson gave the Broncos a 38-37 lead, their first since early in the first half.

Boise State extended the lead to 11, 52-41, thanks to five straight points by Nadia Begay and baskets by Kepilino and Thompson. Hawai’i never got closer than seven points the rest of the way.

“We are excited and that’s an understatement,” Presnell said. “I’m really proud of my players. This was a good win for the program.”