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The Weber State University men’s basketball team lost the CIT Championship at the buzzer on Tuesday night at the Dee Events Center. The Wildcats faced off against the East Carolina University Pirates for a very intense and emotional basketball game — their final one of the season.
The Wildcats came into the match on a four-game winning streak for the CollegeInsider.com Tournament. Their last match came on Saturday against the University of Northern Iowa, in which the Wildcats earned a close 59-56 victory.
The championship began with two back-to-back 3-pointers from WSU senior guard Scott Bamforth. After the Wildcats led an 8-2 scoring run, the Pirates came within two points to put the score at 12-10 five minutes into the half.
The play was consistent from each team during the first half. With 10 minutes to go, WSU held a seven-point lead with a score of 24-17. However, ECU rallied back and gained the lead on the Wildcats to put the score at 38-31 with four minutes left to go. The seven-point lead for the Pirates remained to the end of the half, and WSU faced a 42-35 deficit going into the locker room.
Bamforth led the Wildcats at the half with 13 points, going 3-for-5 from the 3-point line. Junior forward Davion Berry had nine points, four rebounds and two assists for WSU, and junior center Kyle Tresnak added three points and three rebounds. WSU shot 48 percent from the field during the half, but allowed the Pirates to shoot at 60 percent as well.
WSU came out strong to begin the second half. The Wildcats went on a 13-4 scoring run and, with high energy from the crowd, gained back the lead with a score of 48-46 five minutes into the half.
Both teams fought hard during the following minutes, and control of the game was even on each side of the court. ECU gained momentum, however, and, with nine minutes left in the game, WSU faced a seven-point deficit once again with a score of 59-52.
With seven minutes remaining in the game, the Wildcat rally began. After a jumper from Bamforth, a huge 3-pointer from Berry, a steal by Jordan Richardson and another 3-pointer from Bamforth, WSU gained the lead at 62-61. The 8-0 scoring run by WSU grew to 10-0 after a layup by senior forward Frank Otis.
The Pirates tied the game up at 65-65, but the Wildcats led a run once again. After a layup from Otis, the Wildcats put the crowd on its feet with two back-to-back dunks from Tresnak, putting the score at 71-65 with three minutes left.
Despite the momentum from WSU, ECU wouldn’t give up. After two intense minutes of basketball, the Wildcats were down 74-73 with 27 seconds left in the game. Berry tied the game after making one free throw, and the game came down to the last shot. With the final possession, the Pirates let the last seconds of the clock tick away, and ECU’s Akeem Richmond made a 3-pointer to seal the game. The Wildcats fell to the Pirates with a score of 77-74.
WSU was led throughout the match by Bamforth and Otis, who both played the final match of their college careers. Bamforth dropped 19 points, including 4-for-8 from behind the arc, and Otis had 16 points, eight rebounds and three assists. Berry also had 16 points, seven rebounds and six assists, and Tresnak contributed with 10 points and seven rebounds.
“It hurts,” said Bamforth after the game. “I feel like we had them where we wanted to, but some things we didn’t do right . . . After the Montana loss, we were hurt, but I think it shows what kind of people we are. We bounced back after that and got on a little roll and just enjoyed basketball for the past five games. So I think we can hang our hat on that.”
The Wildcats hosted a crowd of more than 10,500, and WSU head coach Randy Rahe expressed his gratitude.
“I really appreciate the fans,” Rahe said. “We’ve got great fans and they support us . . . It’s just tremendous. It’s what a real basketball program is supposed to be about. I feel like we have a really good, successful basketball program . . . I can’t speak enough about how much I appreciate the people.”
WSU closed its season with a 30-7 record — the most wins for a season in WSU history, and Rahe acknowledged the feat.
“I love these guys. I love coaching this team . . . They’ve accomplished a great deal. They’re going to look back . . . and understand that they’ve had a record-setting year, and they’re going to go down as one of the better teams in Weber State history.”