EDINBURG — Trailing 63-60 to Seattle U with less than 30 seconds left in the fourth quarter Thursday, UTRGV needed a quick answer.
After moving the ball around the 3-point line in search of an open shot, Megan Johnson found Zhane Templeton open at the top of the key. Templeton handled the pass and let it fly as she buried a 3-pointer with 4.4 seconds remaining to send the game into overtime, tied at 63.
“When it came to my hands, I was like, ‘You got to knock this down because you got to put your team back on top,’” she said.
UTRGV head coach Lane Lord called Templeton’s 3 the biggest shot of the year for his team.
“I couldn’t believe they left Zhane open. She’s shooting 58% from 3 in conference play. … Zhane, that was big time,” he said.
The Vaqueros went on to outlast the Redhawks for a 85-81 overtime win as UTRGV improved to 8-9 on the year and 3-1 in Western Athletic Conference action.
“I think it all came down to us staying together and playing hard for each other,” Templeton said after a 17-point performance that included nailing five 3-pointers. “That game made my nerves bad for a little bit, but we wound up rallying together.”
On two separate occasions during the second half, the Vaqueros found themselves behind by double digits on the scoreboard.
Both times, graduate student Desirea Buerge stepped up to spark UTRGV runs as she finished with a game-high 27 points, seven rebounds, two assists, one block and one steal. Buerge also had the game’s highest plus-minus at plus-19 as she ended up playing over 27 minutes and all five in overtime due to foul trouble for starter Jordan Agustus.
“Coach always talks about when you’re coming off the bench, you have to bring energy. When Jordan was getting in that foul trouble, she’s normally one of our leading scorers, so I knew I had to step up my game a little bit more and bring the energy even more to keep the team up and rally around them,” Buerge said.
Buerge, a native of Webb City, Missouri, battled down low all night against Seattle’s bigs, outmuscling her opposition more often than not. On one possession alone during the third quarter, she drew three fouls on the Redhawks. Buerge also knocked down 9 of 12 at the free throw line to help push UTRGV over the top.
“Coaches were saying, ‘Who has the most heart?’ So we had to come out and show that we had more heart tonight than they did and not to lose on our home court,” Buerge said.
Four players scored double figures as Trelynn Tyler added 13 points, while Amara Graham scored 12 for the Vaqueros. UTRGV finished the game with a 23-14 assist-to-turnover ratio.
“The biggest thing was to believe,” Lord said. “We just tried to pump them on the crowd. The crowd was into it. We had a bunch of students here, we just didn’t want to let them down. We needed to play for the Valley, we needed to play for our student body and we really did that, we really gutted this one out.”
UTRGV is back in action at 1 p.m. Saturday as the Vaqueros host Utah Valley at the UTRGV Fieldhouse.