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Missoula, Mont. • Aaron Anderson's 3-point attempt looked on target. Everyone stopped in their tracks.
"I was scared," admitted Weber State forward Davion Berry, helplessly watching the North Dakota guard's rainbow.
Instead, North Dakota, which had been making all kinds of acrobatic shots during Friday's semifinal Big Sky Conference Tournament game, couldn't convert the big one at the buzzer.
Weber State, down by 12 points in the second half, watched Anderson's shot bounce harmlessly away, allowing the Wildcats to escape with a 76-74 victory and a date with Montana for the Big Sky Championship in Dahlberg Arena.
Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. Saturday on ESPNU.
"It was like slugging rats out there," WSU coach Randy Rahe said.
Certainly, third-seeded North Dakota (16-16) plagued Weber State. For a time, it was converting shots at a 60 percent clip. Every strange bounce went its way.
Even as Berry continued to attack the basket en route to a 25-point night, WSU center Kyle Tresnak became saddled with foul trouble as UND shredded the Wildcats' vaunted defense.
And when North Dakota's Troy Huff slammed home a Jamal Webb half-court lob to take a 52-40 lead three minutes into the second half, the upset appeared all but complete.
That's when senior experience and freshman enthusiasm took over.
First, WSU's senior guard Scott Bamforth gathered his teammates together.
"That was a time where we needed someone to get everybody together and make a push," said Bamforth, Rahe nodding in agreement. "If we didn't do it then, we'd never do it."
Then freshman center Joel Bolomboy played the most crucial minutes of his short career, throwing down three dunks that cut the lead in half.
From there, Weber State slowly reeled in UND.
Bamforth buried a 3-pointer to tie the game at 74-74 with a little more than a minute to play. Bamforth then forced a turnover, and on the ensuing possession Tresnak dropped in the eventual game-winner with 19 seconds to play.
"We felt really confident at that point," Huff said of the 12-point lead, combined with its new fan base of Montana fans entering the arena for the second semifinal. "That just topped it off. Then they got a couple of big shots, and the game changed from there."
North Dakota had played its best game since making the transition to a Division I school in 2009, but in a losing effort.
"We did a lot of the little things we needed to do to have a chance," UND coach Brian Jones said. "It hurts because I thought we deserved to win. ... We're playing our best basketball right now, and we wanted to continue to play."
While UND waits for a possible CIT berth, the Wildcats remain on point for a chance at the NCAA Tournament.
"We'll be ready," Bamforth said. "No excuses."
O Weber State rallies from a 12-point deficit in the second half.
• Down 52-40, WSU center Joel Bolomboy sparks a comeback with three dunks and a block.
• Weber State's defense keeps UND to under 40 percent shooting in the second half.
Weber State 76, North Dakota 74
NORTH DAKOTA (16-16) • Wilmer 5-8 1-2 11, Anderson 4-9 1-2 9, Huff 10-21 0-0 22, Benton 0-2 0-0 0, Webb 5-9 2-2 13, Antwi 0-0 0-0 0, Allard 0-0 0-0 0, Brekke 5-9 1-2 11, Schuler 2-7 3-3 8, Archer 0-0 0-0 0. Totals • 31-65 8-11 74.
WEBER ST. (26-5) • Otis 4-5 1-2 9, Tresnak 4-7 0-0 8, Bamforth 5-11 0-0 13, Richardson 1-3 0-0 2, Berry 7-19 10-12 25, Wheelwright 2-8 0-0 4, Bolomboy 6-9 1-1 13, Williams 1-2 0-0 2, Hajek 0-1 0-0 0. Totals • 30-65 12-15 76.
HalftimeNorth Dakota 43-40. 3-Point GoalsNorth Dakota 4-11 (Huff 2-4, Schuler 1-3, Webb 1-3, Anderson 0-1), Weber St. 4-18 (Bamforth 3-9, Berry 1-6, Richardson 0-1, Wheelwright 0-2). Fouled OutNone. ReboundsNorth Dakota 31 (Brekke, Huff 8), Weber St. 39 (Bolomboy 8). AssistsNorth Dakota 13 (Webb 6), Weber St. 8 (Bamforth 3). Total FoulsNorth Dakota 14, Weber St. 14. ANA.
Championship Weber State vs. Montana
O In Dahlberg Arena, Missoula, Mt.
Tipoff • 7 p.m. Saturday
TV • ESPNU
Radio • 1280AM
Records • WSU 26-5, UM 24-6
Series history • WSU, 65-50
Last meeting • WSU, 87-63 (Feb. 14)
About the Wildcats • WSU has lost five consecutive games to Montana in Dahlberg Arena. ... Weber State advances to the final with a 76-74 win against North Dakota. ... Davion Berry scored 25 points in the WSU semifinal victory.
About the Grizzlies • Montana defeated Northern Colorado 70-56 in the BSC semifinal. ... BSC Player of the Year Kareem Jamar averaged 14.2 points, 4.1 assists and 5.9 rebounds. ... Montana has won 27 consecutive Big Sky home games.