San Diego State was in the same spot the past two seasons, but came up three points short in 2008 and five last year.
The Aztecs didn’t let this opportunity slip away. They held Utah without a basket for the final 10:27 to pull out a 70-60 overtime victory Saturday and win the Mountain West Conference women’s tournament at the Thomas & Mack Center.
“It’s nice for the first time not to be up here crying because we lost,” said Aztecs guard Jene Morris, who scored 21 points.
After losing MWC championship games the last two years, San Diego State (21-10) claimed the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Utah (22-11) hopes for a Women’s National Invitation Tournament berth.
Victory seemed unlikely for the Aztecs with less than four minutes left. Utah led 56-50, and had a sure layup, but guard Janita Badon missed the open shot.
Utah coach Elaine Elliott called the miss “the buster,” and San Diego State took advantage with a tying six-point spurt and a 20-4 run to end the game.
Utah’s last field goal came with 5:27 to play in regulation. The teams went to overtime tied at 58.
“They got their shots, and that led to us getting frustrated at times,” said Utah forward Kalee Whipple, who attended Pahranagat Valley High School. “We still fought hard. We just didn’t hit a shot.”
Whipple scored 15 points, but Morris’ defense held her to 5-for-22 shooting. Center Taryn Wicijowski scored 19 for Utah.
The Aztecs shot 54.5 percent, and guard Quenese Davis was voted the tournament Most Valuable Player after scoring 22 points. She played with four fouls for the final 11:28.
San Diego State coach Beth Burns said she “didn’t even consider” removing Davis.
“She earned the right to finish that game,” Burns said.
San Diego State was the preseason conference favorite, but entered the tournament as the No. 3 seed.
“We weren’t real happy with the way we played during the regular season,” Morris said. “This was our time to show how good we can actually be.”
■ NOTE — Davis, Morris, Whipple, Wicijowski and Wyoming’s Hillary Carlson made the all-tournament team.
Contact reporter Mark Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2914.