Air Force women's basketball dropped a 46-40 contest to Utah State in opening round action the 2017 Mountain West Women's Basketball Championship Tournament Monday night at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Falcons are eliminated from the Championship and conclude the 2016-27 season.
The game was a hard-fought, back-and-forth battle that came down to the final minute of play. Trailing for most of the game, the Falcons managed to take a lead early in the fourth quarter and tie the game twice, including a 36-36 tie with 3:36 to go.
It was a two point game with 1:10 to play, but the Falcons could manage just one bucket, while Utah State closed with 6-2 run to pull away.
Mariah Forde led Air Force with 14 points. The freshman, who was named to the MW All-Freshman Team earlier in the day, finished the season with 320 points, the second-most ever by an Air Force freshman. Forde hit three three's and went 5-of-6 from the free throw line. Her 57 three's on the season is the third-most in the Div. I era.
Porter finished with eight points and led the team with 10 rebounds, four assists and three steals. Porter, a junior guard, caps the season as Air Force's Div. I era leader in career assists and steals.
Freshman Kailin Davis and junior Erika Chapman added five points. Junior Dee Bennett added four points, nine rebounds and a team-best two blocked shots. Sophomore Venessannah Itugbu had four points, six rebounds and three steals.
"Dee did a great job on the boards and Mariah delivered some much needed offense for us," Air Force head coach Chris Gobrecht said.
Rachel Brewster led Utah State with 14 points. Antonia Robinson added seven points and eight rebounds. Robinson had a key rebound and put back late in the fourth that ultimately sealed the game for the Aggies.
"I thought both teams dug their heels in defensively and made it extremely difficult for one another," Gobrecht said. "The difference in the game--and she was the difference in the game every time we played them--was Antonia (Robinson). The rebound and put-back she had was huge (for Utah State)."
Gobrecht added that although the season is over, she was proud of the team's effort and excited for the future of the program.
"I'm very proud of how my team played," Gobrecht said. "The thing I admire the most about them is their toughness. We lost a lot of key players due to injury, but this team responded and did what they needed to do to compete. We just kept scrapping and clawing and trying to find ways to get it done. The steps we took this year are significant and we have a lot to look forward to in the future."
Air Force quadrupled its win total from last season, Gobrecht's first at Air Force and loses just one senior. All five starters return for the 2017-18 season.