COWBOY CLASSICS: Cowgirl hoops take fans on 3-week ride to WNIT title
CHEYENNE -- Wyoming could've been bummed out about not making the NCAA Tournament.
The Cowgirls won 21 games in the regular season and finished second in the Mountain West Conference. It wasn't enough to earn a bid to the Big Dance, but Joe Legerski's squad wasn't throwing in the towel just yet.
First, they rolled through visiting Nevada, 84-56. Then, the Cowgirls took down Missouri, 73-67.
Fans around the Cowboy State started to take notice. They proved it when Oregon came to town for Game 3. More than 7,300 came to the Arena-Auditorium to cheer UW on to a 64-62 win over the Ducks. Even more showed up for the Cowgirls battle with South Dakota State in the quarterfinals. 11,253 fans looked on as the Cowgirls rolled to a 70-59 victory.
Wyoming was only one game away from playing for a WNIT Championship, and thanks to those massive home crowds, it would have home-court advantage against Kansas State in the semis. They needed all the screams of support to get past the upstart Wildcats in three overtimes. Wyoming eventually pulled away, 89-79, to clinch a berth in the title game against Wisconsin of the Big Ten Conference. More than 12,200 fans showed up to see the win over K-State.
The title tilt with the Badgers would set attendance records.
Led by tournament MVP Hanna Zavecz and Jodi Bolerjack, who was named to the All-Tournament team -- and those 15,462 fans in the A-A, the second most in arena history -- Wyoming outlasted Wisconsin 72-56 to capture the program's first WNIT Championship.
Justyna Podziemska and Bolerjack each scored 16 points that Saturday afternoon, and Megan McGuffey added 10, while Zavecz netted 12 in the win.
The Cowgirls ended the season with a record of 27-9, the best mark in school history.
Legerski, who would go on to coach the Cowgirls through the 2019 season, said after the game that his initial feeling was "relief."
"It's been three weeks of intense basketball against high quality opponents and we had to show up every night," Legerski told reporters following the game. "I was concerned from a mental and physical standpoint after our game against Kansas State.
"I thought we really set the tone offensively, hit our shots early and got this crowd into it. I've used the word electric all week and it was that much and more today. It was deafening on the floor. There was a sea of game day gold, which was unbelievable."