OGDEN — There was supposed to be a celebration Saturday night at the Dee Events Center, where Weber State was all set to rejoice in its first regular-season basketball championship in four years if it could simply beat Northern Arizona.
However, the Wildcats, who hadn't lost a home league game all season, are going to have to wait a few more days to see if they clinch a title and earn the right to host the Big Sky tournament March 13-15.
A hungry Northern Arizona team that is fighting just to get in the seven-team Big Sky tourney led the Wildcats for most of the game, blew a seemingly insurmountable 11-point lead in the final 92 seconds of regulation, and then came back to win 73-71 in overtime on a 3-point shot by Quinton Upshur with four seconds left.
The loss dropped the Wildcats to 13-5 in Big Sky play and 16-10 overall, while Northern Arizona improved to 10-8 and 13-16 overall.
It was the second time this year the Wildcats have lost on a last-second 3-pointer. A month ago, Sacramento State beat Weber State with a 75-foot shot at the buzzer.
“It’s tough. It’s hard to take, but that’s the way it goes,’’ said Weber State coach Randy Rahe. “It was a tough shot to win the game (Upshur) made — sometimes they go in and sometimes they go out. This year we’re cursed on those last-second shots.’’
But Rahe also understood that his team was fortunate just to get back in the game after trailing all night and having to make a furious rally to come back and force the overtime.
The Wildcats trailed by as many as 15 points in the second half and were behind 65-54 with 1:43 left before making an unlikely comeback to tie the game at 68 on Davion Berry’s basket with five seconds left. Berry was fouled on his drive, but missed the free throw that could have won the game.
“I was proud of our kids for coming back,’’ Rahe said. “It looked like we were dead in the water a couple of times, but they gave themselves an opportunity. Sometimes when you dig yourselves that big of a hole, it’s tough to come back.’’
After trailing 37-28 at halftime, the Wildcats fell behind by 15 as the Lumberjacks hit five of their first six shots of the second half.
Down 65-54, Berry, who scored 20 of his team-high 23 points in the second half, hit a 3-pointer with 1:32 left to cut the lead to eight. Then after an NAU turnover, Joel Bolomboy scored on a follow dunk with 53 seconds left to cut the lead to six. Another NAU turnover led to a a pair of free throws by Richaud Gittens with 43 seconds left as Weber pulled within one.
A free throw with 15 seconds left gave NAU a 68-66 lead with 15 seconds left, and Berry took the ball and drove down the lane and scored before missing the ensuing free throw.
Besides Berry’s 23 points, Jeremy Senglin scored 18 and Gittens added 11. Upshur led NAU with 26 and Max Jacobsen chipped in 16.
The Wildcats finish up the regular season next weekend with games at Portland State and Eastern Washington. A win in either game or a loss by Montana, which is 10-7 in the league after its win over Southern Utah Saturday, in one of its final three games will give Weber State the outright title. If the two teams end up tying, it will come down to a tiebreaker that is too complicated to explain at this time.
“Everything that we want to do is under our control,’’ said Rahe. “It’s going to be tough, but we’re going to go out and take care of business.’’