RENO, Nevada - Louisiana Tech saved in seven minutes what its women's basketball program has taken 31 years to build.
The Lady Techsters (20-8) overcame a 15-point deficit in the final seven minutes of regulation to send the game into overtime and eventually down Fresno State 92-87 in double overtime in semifinal action of the 2005 Western Athletic Conference Tournament.
With the win Tech advanced into Saturday's 2 p.m. CST championship game against the winner of Rice and San Jose State and all but assured itself of its 24th straight NCAA Tournament appearance.
"That was one of the greatest college basketball games I've ever been a part of in my 20 years," said Tech head coach Kurt Budke. "Somehow we found the energy, the effort and the fight to come back and win."
The top-seeded Lady Techsters trailed Fresno State 67-52 with 7:36 to play when Bulldog forward Amy Parrish scored inside. The officials timeout followed and Budke had one message for his team.
"I told them that if they wanted their season to continue they better find the energy to kick it into another gear," Budke said. "They did."
Tech came out of the official timeout in a full-court press that led to a 21-6 run over the final seven minutes of regulation. When senior guard Erica Taylor, who led all scorers with 25 points, hit one of two free throws with 0:54 remaining, Tech found itself tied at 73-73.
Taylor, who missed the first 15 games of the season while giving birth to daughter Nia Jay, scored 16 of her points in the final four minutes of regulation and the two overtimes.
"I just try to play as hard as I can and feed off my teammates," Taylor said. "We feed off each other. I'm not in the best shape like I was last year but I'm giving it my all."
Tech appeared to be on the way to victory in the first overtime before Fresno State guard Veronica Mack banked home a three-pointer with 11.0 seconds remaining to send the contest into double overtime.
Fresno State led 87-85 with under two minutes remaining before junior guard Aarica Ray-Boyd hit a 17-footer to tie the game up with 1:29 to play. Ray-Boyd scored 11 of her career-high 16 points in the first half to keep the Techster close, trailing 40-36 entering the locker room.
Tech hit 24-of-28 free throws in the second half and in the overtimes, including 5-of-6 free throws in the final 0:36 seconds, to seal the win.
"I'm so proud to be a part of this program right now," said Fresno State interim head coach Adrian Wiggins. "I'm proud of our players, our assistant coaches and our fans. We didn't come away with the win, but we played our hearts out."
WAC Player of the Year Tasha Crain hit only 6-of-21 field goals but was 8-for-8 from the free throw line to score 20 points.
Mirenda Swearingen led Fresno State (20-10) with 23 points while Arrita Lane added 22 and Amy Parrish 14.