A heartbreaking 59–55 loss to St. Mary’s on Wednesday ends the BYU women’s basketball team’s run in the WNIT and its season.
The Cougars finished their season with a 23–11 record. The Gaels (23–10) will continue on to the next round of the WNIT.
“I thought we didn’t execute like we needed to at the end,” BYU coach Jeff Judkins said. “When a game’s like this and it’s a close game, you just have to do a really good job of not making that mistake.”
It was a sluggish start for BYU, missing the first six field goal attempts. The Cougars were eventually able to find a rhythm, partially because of sophomore Xojian Harry’s efforts off the bench. She shot 100 percent in the first half, including two three-pointers. The Cougars were not able to make a big run and only led 26–22 going into halftime.
The second half started off similarly to the beginning of the game, but this time senior Haley Steed, who went 0–4 in the first half, hit a trey that gave BYU the push it needed. Both teams exchanged points and went on different runs throughout the half, neither able to pull away.
Each time BYU would go on a run, St. Mary’s would respond. But if St. Mary’s took the lead at any point, BYU immediately responded.
“I felt like there were a lot of times in this game where we could’ve build a 10-, 15-point lead and we didn’t take advantage of that opportunity,” Steed said. “It seemed like every time we started to build momentum and get excited, it was followed by a mistake.”
However, after junior Jennifer Hamson made a layup with 4:39 left in the game, BYU didn’t score again. St. Mary’s tenacious defense held BYU to 0–7 shooting from the field in those last few minutes. The Gaels went on a 9–0 run to seal the victory.
“I think we really, really, really wanted to win this game,” St. Mary’s coach Paul Thomas said. “And it’s on the players. My hat’s off to them. They deserve all the credit.”
It was a rough night for BYU’s starting line-up. Steed, one of BYU’s leading scorers, shot 18.7 percent from the field. Hamson is the only starter who shot over 50 percent.
“I think the big problem was that the team put too much pressure on Haley,” Judkins said. “Haley’s a great player, but you can’t count on her to make the plays all of the time. It has to be somebody else. Tonight was not Haley’s night … She’s tired, worn out. She’s played a lot of minutes.”
BYU’s bench stepped it up this game, outscoring St.Mary’s bench 23–2. Along with Harry’s 10 points, Ashley Garfield added six points and Morgan Bailey had seven points.
“What do you say about Haley? She’s probably one of the best players to ever play at BYU,” Judkins said. “(Keilani) set a great example to these young players about what sacrifice is about. I really thought these seniors were key to our team this year. We wouldn’t have won 23 games without them.”