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LAS VEGAS — Utah Valley men’s basketball team was 2:38 away from a berth in its first-ever Western Athletic Conference tournament championship game.
Instead, the Wolverines made another kind of history Friday night at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.
Kenneth Ogbe and Ivory Young each scored 15 points, and Isaac Neilson added a career-high 16 rebounds as Utah Valley men’s basketball team lost to top-seeded CSU Bakersfield 81-80 in the first quadruple overtime game in WAC Tournament history.
The game was the longest played at the WAC Tournament since 2008, and only the third since 1996 to go past two extra periods.
“This game is a beautiful game because most of the time, it’s an honest game,” Utah Valley coach Mark Pope said. “And then you have a few moments where you give everything you have to the game, and you don’t get it back.
“I was really proud of our guys.”
Jaylin Airington scored a game-high 22 points for the Roadrunners (22-8), who advanced to Saturday night’s WAC title game despite shooting just 29 percent and being kept off the glass by Utah Valley’s single-game tournament record 68 rebounds.
“What a great effort by Utah Valley,” said Bakersfield coach Rod Barnes, whose team was 12-2 in WAC play. “They were really well prepared, and did a great job. They fought us; they took everything that we had to give, and responded. I knew that our defense would put us in a position to make some plays and push the game out. But they wouldn’t let it happen.”
Utah Valley played its first overtime game since Dec. 10, 2016, an 80-79 extra-period loss to Utah State. During the regular season, the Wolverines battled Bakersfield in a 68-65 loss Jan. 21 in California, and had an 11-point lead midway through the second half before an 80-71 loss Feb. 16 in Orem.
Andrew Bastien added six points, 12 rebounds and two blocks for Utah Valley (15-16), and fellow senior Jordan Poydras supplied 13 points and two assists for the Wolverines.
“I can’t believe that it ended like this,” said Poydras, who also lost in four overtimes in Wisconsin’s high school state title game in 2011. “That’s the way we went out; it really stings right now, but it was a fun game to be a part of. It definitely hurts, but I’m grateful for how it ended.”
Damiyne Durham gave Bakersfield a 77-76 lead with the Roadrunners’ third 3-pointer of the game almost two minutes into the fourth overtime, and the Wolverines didn’t strike from the field until Bastien drove to the rim to pull within one, 81-80, with 1:22 remaining.
But that was as close as they would get. Utah Valley had a chance to win with eight seconds left, but couldn’t get a shot save for the tough shot from behind the backboard with one second on the clock.
“I just wanted to do it with these guys,” Young said. “That’s the only thing that really matters to me right now. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. We went through a lot of stuff this year, ups and downs.
If you missed @UVUmbb epic, four overtime battle in the WAC Semifinal against Cal State Bakersfield here are the highlights. pic.twitter.com/4D4oL6iIzn— Jeremiah Jensen (@JJSportsBeat) March 11, 2017
“At the end of the day, the trust is in these guys, and they believed in me and I tried to make plays. I love these dudes, and everything they’ve done for me this year.”
The Wolverines held a game-high eight-point lead with 2:38 remaining in regulation, when Brandon Randolph scored back-to-back buckets to go up 49-41 as Bakersfield went 8:32 with a field goal in the second half.
“We practice like this. We play hard. We’re a gritty team,” said Airington, who had just six points at halftime. “I never doubted what we can do, and we pulled through.”
But Utah Valley shot just 29 percent from the field itself, and Airington kept the Roadrunners within four in the final two minutes, then forced overtime … again … and again … and again.
The Wolverines end the season one game under .500, including a 6-8 mark in WAC play. Along the way, they set a program record for largest comeback win last Nov. 23 against Denver, topped BYU for the first time in program history Nov. 26, and derailed WAC power New Mexico State in Las Cruces, N.M., on 84-72.
But most important, Pope said, are the relationships — especially for seniors Poydras, Young and Schenk.
“These seniors will start telling the war stories; in five years, Jordan Poydras will tell all the young guys about the 17-overtime game he played at the WAC Tournament. But these guys have earned that,” Pope said. “They have four all-time historic marks set this year … these guys set the mark this year.
“These stat sheets and basketball history can’t tell the story of how much these young men have grown this last year. It’s inspiring. To see how much these guys have grown, if that’s not the best thing in athletics, I don’t know what is. They are really special people, and they have great futures.”