When Las Vegas native Chelsea Hopkins transferred from Duke to San Diego State two years ago, the chance to play closer to home played a big role in her decision.
"I just wanted to be involved with my family and friends," the former Mojave High star said. "I wanted them to have the opportunity to see me play."
Hopkins treated her family and friends to an impressive display of her all-around skills Saturday at the Thomas & Mack Center.
The 5-foot-8-inch junior point guard had 14 points, five rebounds, four assists and four steals to help the top-seeded Aztecs beat New Mexico 57-43 and claim the Mountain West Conference women’s tournament title.
"It’s the best feeling in the world," said Hopkins, who was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player. "We don’t want to stop here. This is the start of a new season. We’ll celebrate this victory, but then we’ll lock in and refocus to see where we end up Monday."
Courtney Clements, the conference Player of the Year, scored a game-high 16 points and had six rebounds for San Diego State (25-6). Malia Nahinu added six points, eight rebounds and four blocks.
Both players were named to the all-tournament team, along with Boise State’s Lauren Lenhardt and New Mexico’s Porche Torrance, who had 12 points, six rebounds and three blocks for the seventh-seeded Lobos (11-20).
The Aztecs won their second MWC tournament title in three years and secured the school’s third NCAA bid in four years.
San Diego State, which outrebounded New Mexico 45-29, sprinted to a 19-4 lead. The Lobos, who made only 13 of 45 shots (28.9 percent), trimmed the deficit to 22-15 at halftime and closed to 26-22 early in the second half.
But the Aztecs answered with a 13-3 run to extend their lead to 14 points and weren’t threatened again.
Hopkins, the conference Newcomer of the Year, whose father, Tony Hopkins, was a longtime local prep basketball coach, helped cut down the net after the victory as "We Are The Champions" played in the background.
"It feels amazing," she said. "I just feel really blessed and fortunate that all my family came out."
It’s safe to say San Diego State feels the same way about her.
■ NOTE — Should UNLV not be awarded an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament, the Lady Rebels will be given an automatic bid to the Women’s National Invitation Tournament as the Mountain West’s highest seed (No. 2) not headed to the NCAA Tournament. The Lady Rebels (22-9), who were upset by New Mexico 61-58 in the first round of the MWC tournament, will learn their postseason fate Monday.
Contact reporter Todd Dewey at email@example.com or 702-383-0354.Men’s bracket