OGDEN — With the Big Sky MVP Davion Berry having an off-shooting night, the young and talented Weber State freshmen really stepped up and were an unlikely hero in the Wildcats’ nail-biting 66-63 overtime semifinal victory over Northern Colorado Friday night at the Dee Events Center.
“We got a quick rotation going with subs tonight, because the excitement of the game kind of takes your adrenaline,” Weber State head coach Randy Rahe said after the game. “But I thought our bench was really big tonight, and they played really well.”
In addition to Berry’s early offensive struggles, sophomore standout and Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year Joel Bolomboy found himself in early foul trouble, prompting an early entrance for redshirt freshman Kyndahl Hill.
Hill came off the bench and provided a much-needed spark for the ’Cats as he caught an inbounds pass from senior Jordan Richardson and threw down an emphatic alley-oop dunk to tie the game nearly midway through the first half and get the fans on their feet.
Hill was outstanding all game as he finished with five points and seven rebounds to help propel the purple and white into the Big Sky Championship game Saturday at 6 p.m.
Richaud Gittens got the early nod and had an immediate impact throughout the game. Gittens was one of four Wildcat players to score in double figures and finished the night with an extremely productive line as he posted 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting, three rebounds and three assists in the win.
“I thought they (Hill, Gittens) both did a really good job (tonight),” Rahe said. “One thing about them is they are not afraid and that’s kind of rare in freshmen. I thought both of them were huge tonight, and we really needed them both.”
Fellow freshman Jeremy Senglin had a relatively quiet night but drilled a couple of momentous 3-pointers and helped facilitate Weber State’s offense to help WSU hang on for the overtime win and survive another day.
With the win, the No. 1 seed Weber State will look to have the same success Saturday night as it clashes with second-seeded North Dakota in a battle of the best of the Big Sky. Weber State knocked off UND in both of its meetings earlier this season.
“We’ll be ready for it,” senior guard Jordan Richardson said of Saturday’s championship game. “We know we have to come in focused and we know what to expect. We have been here before, so we will be ready to play and come out and get this win.”
Ryan Love is a full-time student at the University of Utah studying communications and has been a part-time sports reporter and scoreboarder for the Deseret News since October 2012.
Follow him on Twitter @RLove7724