Two years ago, Utah Tech senior guards Breaunna Gillen and Maggie McCord did not play a conference game in their first season in the WAC. Last season, Gillen, McCord and the Trailblazers were not eligible for the WAC Tournament due to NCAA Division I transition rules.
In 2021-22, Gillen, McCord and the Trailblazers were swept by their in-state rivals.
Playing in your first-ever Division I postseason game against your in-state rivals who swept you a season ago.
Seems like some good motivation heading into the first-ever WAC Tournament game in program history.
The motivation worked…barely.
Gillen and McCord combined for 35 points as Utah Tech held off in-state rival Utah Valley, 72-68, in the program’s first-ever Division I postseason win on Monday at Michelob Ultra Arena.
With the win, the Trailblazers return the favor with a season sweep of the Wolverines.
McCord and Gillen hit back-to-back 3-pointers to start the game as Utah Tech jumped out to an 11-0 lead.
However, Utah Valley had a response. Kaylee Byon and Mae Afoa hit 3-pointers as part of an 8-0 run to get Utah Valley right back in the ball game.
Following Maggie McCord’s 3-pointer to give Utah Tech a 36-35 lead with 2:27 left in the half, Utah Valley finished off the half with a 6-0 run. Elina Tausinga scored five straight points and Utah Valley capped the scoring on a Shay Fano free throw to take a 41-36 lead into the locker room.
Kaylee Byon’s free throws to start the second half pushed Utah Valley’s lead to seven.
However, Utah Tech responded in kind with a 13-2 run capped off by a Maggie McCord 3-pointer, giving the Trailblazers a 50-45 lead midway through the third quarter.
Utah Valley came right back. Shay Fano’s 3-pointer gave Utah Valley a 55-54 lead with 1:15 left in the third. But, Maggie McCord hit another 3-pointer to give Utah Tech the lead right back.
After a Breaunna Gillen free throw, Kaylee Byon hit a jumper to end the third with Utah Tech leading 58-57.
Ally Criddle gave Utah Valley its largest lead of the game. Criddle stole a Utah Tech pass, finishing on the other end with a breakaway layup to give the Wolverines a 66-60 lead with 5:28 to play.
Amber Kartchner’s 3-pointer capped off a 6-0 Utah Tech run to tie the game up at 66 with 4:15 to play.
On the following possession, Shay Fano gave the Wolverines a 68-66 lead with second-chance layup.
Both teams went ice cold over the next 90 minutes. Breaunna Gillen broke the struggle with a hesitation layup to give the Trailblazers a 70-68 lead with 2:04 to play.
Neither team wanted to win down the stretch. Or so it seemed. Turnovers, missed shots, and bad possessions kept the score at 70-68 over the next two minutes.
With 12 seconds to play, Breaunna Gillen had a chance to put the game away. However, the driving layup fell off the left side of the rim and into the arms of Fano. Timeout Dan Nielson.
Out of the timeout, the Wolverines got the look they wanted. Shay Fano took a pass on the the left side of the key. Fano then spun to her left and had a decent look.
Unfortunately for Fano and the Wolverines, Emily Isaacson stood her ground. Fano’s attempt was a little strong. Isaacson grabbed the rebound and hit a pair of free throws to seal the win for the Trailblazers.
Breaunna Gillen finished with 16 points, seven assists and six rebounds. Maggie McCord finished with a game-high 19 points and was 5-9 from 3-point land. Emily Isaacson was the other Trailblazer in double figures with 12 points.
The Trailblazers advance to face California Baptist in Wednesday’s quarterfinals at the Orleans Arena.
Shay Fano had a team-high 18 points for Utah Valley. Fano also pulled down 12 rebounds. Kaylee Byon had 16 points, four assists and four rebounds.
The Wolverines finish the 2022-23 season 6-24 overall and 3-15 in WAC play.