The University of Wyoming women’s basketball team was in trouble Saturday at the Air Force Academy.
The Cowgirls had led throughout against Air Force, but a disappearing offense in the second half allowed the Falcons to eventually take a four-point lead with 27 seconds remaining.
But UW’s three seniors carried the team to an unlikely win.
Marta Gomez, Sladjana Rakovic and Clara Tapia combined to score the last 25 points of the game for the Cowgirls – including all 12 in overtime – as they rallied for a 59-56 win over the Falcons.
UW (19-6 overall, 12-4 Mountain West) will celebrate all six of its seniors at 6:30 p.m. Monday against San Jose State. But Gomez, Rakovic and Tapia probably should be honored as well for keeping the Cowgirls from their first back-to-back losses of the season.
“All season we’ve kept our composure in close games and know what we’re doing and just keep playing our game,” Cowgirls senior Marta Gomez said. “After what happened Wednesday, we were ready and everybody did a good job in the last five minutes.”
UW lost to visiting Fresno State on Wednesday. The Cowgirls’ first defeat in 10 games played out in similar fashion to Saturday’s contest. UW also trailed by two possessions against the Bulldogs, but kept extending the game until finally getting a chance to tie in the final seconds.
That didn’t end well for UW – Saturday’s outcome did.
UW led the majority of the first three quarters and held a 30-22 lead with 5 minutes, 51 seconds left in the third quarter.
The Cowgirls scored just three points the rest of the quarter and Air Force (8-19, 4-12) pulled within 33-32 starting the four quarter.
The Falcons took their first lead of the game since the earlygoing at 35-34 with 7:47 left. Trailing 42-41 with 2:59 to go in regulation, UW went the next 2:32 without a point and trailed 45-41 with 27 seconds to play.
Rakovic got UW within two points with a basket with 22 seconds left, but two Kaelin Immel free throws pushed the lead back to four. Tapia sliced the lead in half with a basket with 14 seconds remaining. Then, UW got the break it needed when Immel missed two free throws following a quick foul.
UW went right back inside to Rakovic, who scored an uncontested layup with 5.3 seconds left to tie the game 47-47. Air Force’s Briana Autrey missed a jumper at the buzzer to send the game to overtime.
Once there, the Cowgirls were clearly the aggressor.
UW never trailed in the 5-minute period with Gomez giving the team the lead for good with a basket 40 seconds into the extra period.
Tapia added two free throws and a basket and Rakovic scored with 2:16 left for a 53-49 lead.
Gomez finished off the game with a basket with 51 seconds left for a 57-53 lead and two free throws with 3 seconds left after Air Force hit a 3-pointer.
The Falcons had one last chance to tie the game, but Immel’s corner 3 missed everything at the buzzer.
Gomez led the Cowgirls with her second career double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds.
Rakovic scored 10 points off the bench – all coming in the second half and overtime.
“(Saturday) was a day where I could help the team,” Rakovic said. “The way (Air Force) played and the way I could post up, we realized that I had the advantage with my matchup and I’m going to take care of things.”
Senior Bailee Cotton added 10 points and 11 rebounds for her 11th career double-double before fouling out, and Tapia totaled nine points and three assists.
UW’s senior group finished with 46 of the team’s 59 points.
“It says a lot about us seniors, but it also says a lot about the team, knowing who to look for to take the open shot. It’s not like we decided to take over the game,” Gomez said.
Immel led Air Force with 18 points and freshman Riley Snyder added 15.
Moving up to No. 2
Gomez made two 3-pointers Saturday to give the senior 242 on her career.
That ties Kayla Woodward for second place all-time with the Cowgirls.
Kaitlyn Mileto, the Colorado Springs, Colorado, native who was in attendance at Saturday’s game, holds the all-time record with 285.