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Aggie women’s basketball is going dancing

The New Mexico State women’s basketball team is going to the 2019 NCAA Tournament. The Aggies beat the UT Rio Grande Valley Vaqueros 76-73 in double overtime Saturday afternoon in the 2019 Western Athletic Conference Basketball Tournament championship title game.

Gia Pack, left, and Aaliyah Prince hug after the Aggies won the 2019 Western Athletic Conference women’s championship title against UT Rio Grande Valley on Saturday, March 16, 2019, at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas. (Photo by Eli K. Whitney/Kokopelli)

“Another really good game,” said Aggies head coach Brooke Atkinson. “Now, instead of a single overtime, we gave you a double overtime. These young ladies played a lot of minutes, a lot of tough minutes. And that just continues to show what this team is made of — resiliency, no quit. And that’s exactly what they showed you. They deserve this, and I couldn’t be prouder.”

Aggie guard Brooke Salas shoots a layup during the 2019 Western Athletic Conference women’s championship title game against UT Rio Grande Valley on Saturday, March 16, 2019, at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas. (Photo by Eli K. Whitney/Kokopelli)

The WAC tournament championship win gives the Aggies an automatic NCAA Tournament bid.

Gia Pack, who was named tournament MVP, set a WAC tournament record for points in a tournament with 86 points. Abby Garchek of New Mexico held the previous record of 81 points. Pack also set the record for most field goals with 30 and most field goals attempted with 57.

“This was all a business trip for us,” said Pack. “We wanted to get the job done and then celebrate after.”

Aggie guard Brooke Salas noted that “everyone knows Gia Pack is a player. She’s gonna make plays.”

Another Aggie who’s now in the record books is Brooke Salas. Salas moved up and tied for fifth place on the WAC’s all-time scoring list. She is tied with Shawnte’ Goff of UTRGV with 1,912 points.

This is the first time in WAC women’s tournament history that the title game has gone into overtime, and it was only the second time in WAC women’s tournament history that a game has gone into double overtime.

Aggie guard Gia Pack takes the ball down court during the 2019 Western Athletic Conference women’s championship title game against UT Rio Grande Valley on Saturday, March 16, 2019, at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas. (Photo by Eli K. Whitney/Kokopelli)

The Aggies were booming at the start of the game. NMSU put up the first 5 points and Brooke Salas scored 9 in the first two minutes. As coach Atkinson said, the girls played a lot of tough minutes. The second quarter didn’t shy away from that.

New Mexico State got into foul trouble right before halftime and UTRGV took advantage. The Vaqueros went into halftime with a 36-35 lead.

Right out of halftime, each team was clawing back and forth to keep the lead. Turnovers at the wrong time gave the Vaquero’s the edge. The UTRGV bench also made a huge impact to extend the Vaquero’s lead to 51-46.

The fourth quarter was as gritty as it gets. Both teams wanted the ball and wanted to win. For the Aggies, the ball bounced their way a couple times to tie the game at 58 apiece to take it into overtime.

In overtime, the Aggies and Vaqueros didn’t score much, but New Mexico State’s Gia Pack hit a three-pointer to break the WAC tournament scoring record. Each team ended up scoring only 5 points, with most of them being free throws, to force a double-overtime game.

The New Mexico State Aggies are the 2019 Western Athletic Conference women’s champions and are now headed to the Big Dance. The seeding selection show will air Monday, March 18, at 7 p.m. EST on ESPN.

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