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New Mexico State women win 2019 WAC Tournament title in double-overtime classic

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New Mexico State women win 2019 WAC Tournament title in double-overtime classic

Photo Courtesy: Mark Nessia / Western Athletic Conference

Photo Courtesy: Mark Nessia / Western Athletic Conference

Photo Courtesy: Mark Nessia / Western Athletic Conference

Photo Courtesy: Mark Nessia / Western Athletic Conference

LAS VEGAS—Winning in March is rarely easy.

To advance in win-or-go-home situations, it takes grit and a refusal to lose, digging deep down until nothing is left against a team that is trying to do the same.

The New Mexico State Aggies were not going to return to the NIT, not again. Not that consolation prize nobody wants.

The Aggies had to fight off the second-seeded UT Rio Grande Valley for 50 minutes, being tested for four quarters and two overtime periods. In the end, NM State was able to make just one more play than the upset-minded Vaqueros, winning the 2019 women’s Western Athletic Conference tournament title 76-73 in double overtime.

It is the first tournament title win for second-year head coach Brooke Atkinson, who was a part of three WAC tournament final losses in a row from 2006-08 as an assistant at NM State.

“Just another really good game, but now instead of a single overtime, this game went into double overtime,” Atkinson said after the game. “These young ladies played a lot of minutes – a lot of tough minutes, and that just continues to show what this team is made of. Resiliency, no quit and that is exactly what they showed you and they deserve this.

“I could not be prouder.”

It was the usual suspects that led the way for the Aggies – Gia Pack and Brooke Salas. UTRGV head coach Lane Lord called the duo two of the best mid-major players in the country and for good reason. Salas led the Aggies with a game-high 29 points on 10-of-25 shooting from the field to go along with 12 rebounds while Pack poured in 22 points and grabbed seven rebounds, earning WAC tournament MVP in the process.

“This was just a business trip for us – we just wanted to get the job done and celebrate after but just being on this team, we stay together no matter what,” Pack said after a 22-point performance that acted as the cherry on top of her tournament MVP dessert. “We did not give up and we all rely on each other and that’s what family does.”

Defense was the key in crucial moments down the stretch because of an Aggie offense that grew far too stagnant at times. The Aggies caused three shot clock violations late in the fourth quarter with blocks and stopped UTRGV’s Idil Turk from winning the game at the buzzer in the first overtime with a quality contest on the shot.

“Our mentality was that we had to get stops – it wasn’t an option,” Salas admitted. “We were not worried about offense because defensively, we had to step it up and be more intense.”

The Vaqueros shot 45 percent from the field in the first half and knocked down six 3-pointers. The deficit was as large as seven in the third quarter for the Aggies, but the defensive intensity increased as the situation grew dire.

Defense won the championship.

“Obviously with winning 17 (games) in a row, they have gone through a lot of adversity but from the day we started, that chemistry they have, they have that family mentality in whatever we have asked them to do,” Atkinson said.

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About the Writer
Derek Gonzales, Editor-in-Chief

Derek E. Gonzales enters his third year as an employee of the New Mexico State University Round Up and first as the Editor-in-Chief. The homegrown product...

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New Mexico State women win 2019 WAC Tournament title in double-overtime classic