One More Game

MANHATTAN, Kan.-- Kansas State needed just one free throw to advance to the championship game of the WNIT.

Surprisingly enough it came in overtime.

K-State beat Western Kentucky 57-56 in the WNIT semifinals at Bramlage Coliseum Tuesday night.

The Wildcats have struggled this season when forced to play those extra five minutes of bonus ball. Struggled, meaning they lost all four overtime games.

With the contest tied at 53 and 8.8 ticks left in regulation junior guard Claire Coggins, a 70-percent free throw shooter, had a chance to win the game. She missed both free throw attempts and Western Kentucky went the length of the court and well, didn't shoot the ball.

The uneasiness felt by almost all of the 7,538 fans in attendance prior to the game's second tip-off was certainly justified.

But Kansas State (23-10) proved once again, as they have throughout the post-season, that their youth wasn't going to get the best of them.

"I don't think anybody was thinking about the past games at all," said Coggins, who led K-State with 16 points. "The maturity of this team has gotten so much better."

Overtime looked like roller derby instead of basketball. For a good four minutes and 44 seconds more bodies hit the deck than balls went through the hoop.

Sophomore guard Kim Dietz came up with a huge steal with 16 seconds left and was fouled. Kansas State's best free throw shooter (86-percent) made the first shot and missed the second giving the Cats a 57-54 lead.

Confusion in the final moments hurt Western Kentucky yet again as guard Ashley Butler attacked the basket when they needed a three. Center Sarah Shouse was there for the easy put-back as time expired.

For Western Kentucky coach Mary Taylor Cowles that was the end of a very disappointing two weeks. v"To be honest it's somewhat frustrating starting with the non-selection of the NCAA Tournament when we felt like we had positioned ourselves so well to be in there," Taylor Cowles said.

The Lady Toppers won the Sun Belt regular season with a 12-2 record, but fell to Middle Tennessee tournament championship game.

"And then there's the overall having to come here with nine players as we enter the semifinals."

Taylor Cowles suspended her team's best perimeter player for unspecified reasons prior to coming to Manhattan.

Senior guard Tiffany Porter-Talbert averaged 16.4 points and 7.7 rebounds a game. She was just five rebounds shy of 1,000 and could've become only the second Lady Topper to score 2,000 points and pull down 1,000 rebounds.

It was obvious throughout the entire match and especially in the waning moments of regulation and overtime that her presence was sorely missed.

The Lady Toppers turned the ball over 28 times, with half of the errors coming from the players in the backcourt, including the steal by Dietz.

That statistic alone helps to explain how the Cats won despite shooting two of 11 from beyond the arc, 40-percent from the field and nine of 20 from the charity stripe.

"It wasn't at all a pretty game," Kansas State coach Deb Patterson said.

"It was just one of those games that I thought both teams were battling as hard as they could. Down the stretch it was just going to come down to one mistake and one big play."

The Wildcats will wrap up the 2005-06 season on Friday at 7 p.m. against Marquette in the WNIT title game.

It's an opportunity for the Cats' lone senior, Jessica McFarland, to accomplish something no other Wildcat has done: Win her final game in a K-State uniform.

"It's just nice to know that I am going to play my last game at home," McFarland said. "We will be playing in front of our fans, and playing for a championship. I can't wait for it to happen."

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