LARAMIE, Wyo. It took three overtimes to exhaust Kansas State’s WNIT magic but the Wildcats’ phenomenal postseason run finally came to an end Wednesday night in an 89-79 semifinal loss at Wyoming before a raucous crowd of 12,225 at Arena-Auditorium.
The loss keeps K-State from defending its WNIT title; however it wasn’t for a lack of effort by the Wildcats.
Ashley Sweat scored a game- and career-high 31 points the most by a Wildcat since Claire Coggins dropped the same number on Idaho State in last season’s WNIT opener and Shalee Lehning posted her second career triple-double with 15 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists.
Kimberly Dietz also finished in double figures with 13 points and Shana Wheeler added 12 before fouling out in the second overtime session for Kansas State (19-15), which appeared to have the game won at the end of regulation.
But an unusual set of circumstances conspired to allowed Wyoming’s Justyna Podziemska to get off a desperation 3-pointer with just six seconds remaining that knotted the game at 59-59 and forced the first of what would eventually be three overtime sessions.
The Wildcats overcame the setback and came out gunning in the first OT. Dietz drilled back-to-back treys and Lehning added one of her own plus a layup to give the Wildcats a 3-point lead at 70-67.
Dominique Sisk, who would go on to finish with 14 points for Wyoming (26-9), brought the Cowgirl girls back with a pair of buckets to tie things at 71-71 and send the game into a second 5-minute session.
This time it was Wyoming that jumped on top. Podziemska, who scored 18 points before fouling out late in the second overtime, got things started with a bucket and a pair of free throws by Megan McGuffey gave the Cowgirls a 75-71 lead before the Wildcats answered with four straight points by Sweat.
Sweat then hit the second of two free throws with 30 seconds remaining to give the Wildcats a 78-77 lead, but Jodi Bolerjack re-tied the game by making 1-of-2 at the line on the Cowgirls’ ensuing possession to force the third overtime.
And unfortunately for the Wildcats, the final five minutes belonged to Hanna Zavecz. Zavecz, who shot 24 of Wyoming’s 52 free throws the most ever by a K-State opponent scored five of her team-high 28 points in the final overtime to help the Cowgirls pull away.
Ironically, the Wildcats’ lone point of the final overtime came on a free throw by Sweat that was one of just 18 attempts from the line on the night for Kansas State, which attempted 34 fewer foul shots than the Cowgirls for the game.
Wyoming’s third-overtime surge proved to be the only insurmountable lead of the night for K-State, which fought back from a 6-point first-half deficit and an 8-point hole in the second half.
Still, it was a gutsy finish to a tough season for the Wildcats, who could have easily cashed in their chips after dropping 12 of their final 14 games before earning the WNIT berth. Instead, K-State dug deep and with a determined effort embarked on a postseason run that in the end said volumes about the heart and character of the 2006-07 team.