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LAS VEGAS (AP) — As a freshman, Boise State's Brooke Pahukoa told reporters the Broncos would respond from a one-and-done in the Mountain West Tournament by winning the title the next year.
And they did.
Last year, after Boise State lost to UNLV in the quarterfinals in another one-and-done showing, Pahukoa boldly predicted the exact same thing — that the Broncos would win the championship this year.
And they did.
Pahukoa scored 17 points and Boise State beat Fresno State 66-53 on Friday to win its second conference championship in three years and earn an automatic spot in the NCAA Tournament.
"I knew the second we came here this year, we were going to win," said Pahukoa, the tournament MVP. "The look on everyone's faces, the attitudes we had, I said there's no one stopping us. And I think it showed the way that we played. We played a different level of basketball here this week, and I think that's going to continue for us."
Normally a 40 percent shooting team, Boise State (25-7) shot just 33.8 percent from the field, hitting 22 of 65, including a paltry 6 of 20 (30 percent) from 3-point range, while overcoming league defensive player of the year Bego Faz Davalos.
"We were trying to control the game," Boise State's Shalen Shaw said. "And Coach (Gordy Presnell said), 'Slow down, do our thing, move the ball and communicate on defense.' And fronting Bego, and making sure they're making a tough pass, so they're not getting easy shots. We just worked together and made sure they didn't get anything easy."
Shaw and Yaiza Rodriguez each added 12 points for the Broncos.
"The thing that I was really proud of our players this week is that we did grind, and we haven't done that a whole lot," Presnell said. "I've told them over and over if we can get to a higher level than everyone in the league, but can't seem to get consistent like a Colorado State who seems to consistently play well."
Presnell's players found their consistency at the right time, as the fourth-seeded Broncos entered the postseason on a seven-game win streak, and extended it to 10 games with three tournament wins, including a semi-final victory over No. 1 seed Colorado State.
"We've just had some competitive people that believe in the system and believe in the university," Presnell said. "And we're not going to put up a white flag for anybody. And like I said, we had the rough bracket. If you think about it. New Mexico is a terrific program. And Colorado State is the No. 1 seed. And we just kept plugging away."
Candice White had 14 points for Fresno State (18-5), and Faz Davalos added 11 points and 14 rebounds.
Boise State's Marijk Vanderschaaf, who added eight points offensively, frustrated Faz Davalos for most of the game defensively. Normally a 54 percent shooter from the floor, Faz Davalos was just 5 of 12 from the floor, while the Bulldogs were 17 of 54 (31.5 percent).
"Of course, it was frustrating, I didn't know what was happening," Faz Davalos said. "But I think my teammates and my coaches told me how to react. And I tried next time, hoping it would start working, but we ran out of time, I think."
Fresno State lost in the championship game for the second straight season, after losing to Colorado State last year.
"I was proud to be in this game, and I'm pretty sure when we walked out of that locker room to start the game we all thought we were going to win it," Fresno State coach Jaime White said. "We're going to be back again. We're going to keep coming back. This is what it's about. One game doesn't really define us, although I hope it helps us be more motivated as we learn to deal with this kind of thing and move forward next year."
Boise State: The Broncos are the third No. 4 seed to win the title. They also won as a No. 4 in 2015.
Fresno State: Faz Davalos, only a junior, continued an impressive career with the Bulldogs with a stellar tournament showing. In her 21st double-double of the season, she broke the single-season record (20), which was set in the league's inaugural season by UNLV's Linda Froelich. Her 366 career blocked shots also broke the Mountain West career record, originally held by New Mexico's Jordan Adams (344, 1999-03)
Joining Pahukoa on the all-tournament team were Rodriguez and Faz Davalos, along with Colorado State's Elin Gustavsson, San Jose State's Dezz Ramos and UNLV's Brooke Johnson.
SAVING THE BEST FOR LAST
Boise State averaged 21 points in the fourth quarter while shooting 45.1 percent from the field and 50 percent from 3-point range. In the tournament, the Broncos outscored their opponents by a total of 18 points in the final period.
Boise State: NCAA Tournament
Fresno State: The Bulldogs are hoping their run to the championship game will help them get an invite to a postseason event, likely the WNIT.
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