Wyoming Cowgirls win WNIT Championship

Wyoming Cowgirls win WNIT Championship

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By DAN LEWERENZ Associated Press Writer

LARAMIE, Wyo. (AP) -- Not making the NCAA tournament doesn't feel so bad anymore.

Jodi Bolerjack and Justyna Podziemska scored 16 points apiece to lead Wyoming to a 72-56 victory over Wisconsin in the WNIT championship game Saturday.

After wining 21 games in the regular season and tying for second in the Mountain West Conference, the Cowgirls (27-9) had hoped for their first NCAA bid.

Instead, they got to stay home and play in front of record crowds, including more than 15,000 in the championship game that they dominated.

"I don't think we could have asked for a better experience," tournament MVP Hanna Zavecz said. "I think we're very grateful for the opportunity to play in the postseason, and just making it all this way is amazing. Right now, we're glad we had this experience."

And what an experience it was. This time, Wyoming didn't have to deal with a late comeback, like it did against Oregon, or a triple-overtime thriller like the semifinal against Kansas State.

The Cowgirls had a double-digit lead through most of the second half. Wisconsin (23-13) got to 55-44 on Jolene Anderson's four-point play, and Janese Banks' hook shot over Bolerjack with 7:50 left brought the Badgers to 57-48, but that was as close as they'd get.

"We knew Wisconsin was going to make a run," Wyoming coach Joe Legerski said. "You don't win 23 games and not fight. We knew they were coming back, and they did."

But Megan McGuffey answered with back-to-back layups for the Cowgirls, the first on an assist from Podziemska, the second a fast-break basket on an assist from Dominique Sisk. Podziemska hit a pair of free throws to make it 63-48 with 5:40 left.

"Megan came in and gave us great energy," Legerski said. "We changed a set that we wanted to run, where we could take advantage of what Megan does best, and she ended up attacking the basket and scored. And then when she got out on the transition ... Megan just battles."

Wisconsin coach Lisa Stone made adjustments at half time, but they weren't enough.

"We addressed some things at halftime, and I thought defensively we played a lot better in the second half," Stone said. "We just couldn't get a flow offensively."

The tournament title caps the most successful season in school history. No Wyoming team has won as many games -- the previous record was set by the 1978-79 team, which finished 25-7 -- and no Wyoming team ever advanced so far in postseason play.

Wisconsin was denied its second WNIT title. The Badgers were runners-up in 1999, then won in 2000.

Podziemska also had 10 rebounds and eight assists, Zavecz scored 12 points, and McGuffey had 10 points in front of a sold-out crowd of 15,462 -- the second-largest in WNIT history. It's the biggest crowd ever for a Wyoming women's game, and the second-largest in the Arena-Auditorium.

Wyoming had set four consecutive attendance records: 7,362 against Oregon, 11,253 against South Dakota State in the quarterfinals, and 12,225 against Kansas State in the semifinals.

Anderson led Wisconsin with 21 points and broke the WNIT individual scoring record with 129 points. Jenny Lingor set the previous record (116 points) for Southwest Missouri State in 2005.

"Her strengths are kind of everywhere -- she can shoot, she can drive," Zavecz said. "She played a great game."

Mariah Dunham scored 13 for Wisconsin, and Banks had 12.

Bolerjack, Anderson and Banks joined Zavecz on the all-tournament team, along with Kansas State's Ashley Sweat and Western Kentucky's Crystal Kelly.

Wisconsin had to play most of the game without point guard Rae Lin D'Alie, who injured her right hand early in the first half and did not return.

"Continuity-wise, it got a little stagnant -- people weren't moving, weren't cutting like we should have," Banks said.

Wyoming closed the first half on a 7-0 run, and Aubrey Vandiver had a hand in all seven points. She scored twice from the right block, getting fouled on the second shot and hitting the free throw. Vandiver then had an assist on Elisabeth Dissen's shot with 23 seconds left that gave the Cowgirls a 39-26 lead at halftime.

"We got a couple fresh people off the bench, and Megan and Aubrey were just amazing," Podziemska said.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.) APTV-03-31-07 1647MDT

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