LAS VEGAS — Gordy Presnell has two main goals when he climbs the ladder to cut down the nets: don't fall, and don't cut himself.
He's had plenty of practice to make sure neither is a problem.
Presnell ascended to the top step and cut down the final piece of the net yet again Wednesday night after the Broncos outlasted No. 1 seed Fresno State 80-76 in an overtime thriller at the Thomas and Mack Center.
It was the fourth straight year and the fifth time in the past six years that Presnell held the net above his head and looked down as his teammates, family, friends and Boise State's fans celebrated below him.
"It doesn't get old," Presnell said as confetti fell from the sky and the Broncos celebrated on the court. "This is awesome."
Braydey Hodgins had 20 points and A’Shanti Coleman had 16 — but both fouled out in the fourth quarter and had to watch the thrilling finish helplessly from the bench.
So on a team full of talented, battle-tested seniors, the Broncos turned to a sophomore with a spot in the NCAA Tournament on the line. And Jade Loville was ready.
The left-handed sophomore came off the bench and scored 20 points — including 10 points in the fourth quarter and overtime — to will the Broncos past the Bulldogs in a late-night thriller in the city that never sleeps.
Loville scored the game-winning bucket with 1:32 to go in overtime and added another key basket and free throw to send the Broncos to a familiar spot - a celebration on the Thomas and Mack Center floor and an upcoming trip back to the Big Dance.
"I was telling Braydey that I just did my part," Loville said. "They've done so much, these seniors. They've left a legacy that is so spectacular and I just wanted to do my part. I didn't want to let them down. I didn't want to let my coaches down. I'm just so happy. I'm so happy that it all fell into place."
Boise State becomes the first team in Mountain West history to win four straight conference tournament titles.
Fresno State led 65-64 when Loville hit a free throw to tie the game with 2:22 left in the fourth quarter. She then hit a baseline jumper to give the Broncos a 67-65 lead with 1:33 to play.
After Fresno State tied the game on a pair of free throws, Loville backed down her defender and scored on a short post up shot at the rim to put Boise State back in front at 69-67 with 1:03 remaining.
"We had a sophomore Jade Loville that stepped up and hit some big shots down the stretch," Presnell said.
The Bulldogs’ Aly Gamez hit a free throw and Mallory McGwire hit a pair of free throws at the other end to give Boise State a 71-68 lead with 13.6 seconds left.
Fresno State freshman Haley Cavinder nailed a long 3-pointer with 7.6 seconds left to tie the game, and Jayde Christopher’s shot at the buzzer missed to send the game to overtime.
Boise State let a 17-point lead slip away in an 85-80 loss to Fresno State back in January. The Broncos led by 10 points heading to the fourth quarter before faltering in a game that ultimately contributed to the Bulldogs winning the regular season title and not Boise State.
They let a nine-point lead slip away in the fourth quarter Wednesday, but weren't about to lose it completely in overtime.
"The whole fourth quarter and down the stretch we kept saying 'we've got this, we've got this'," said senior Ellie Woerner, who contributed 10 key points off the bench. "We just had confidence in each other and we were composed. We've been in those situations before so I think having that experience helped us play calm and know that we could still do it."
The Broncos had to play the overtime period without maybe their two best players in the seniors Coleman and Hodgins. Mallory McGwire hit a reverse layup with 2:15 left in overtime to give the Broncos the lead, but Mountain West Player of the Year Maddi Utti made a pair of free throws to tie the game at 73-73 with 1:58 to play.
Loville hit two straight buckets to put the Broncos up 77-73 with 40 seconds to go in overtime, and they led 78-73 with 11 seconds left after she went 1 for 2 at the foul line.
But a crazy finish ensued. Cavinder hit a shot with 4 seconds left to make it 78-75, and then stole the inbounds pass and was fouled and hit the first free throw to make it 78-76. She missed the second free throw on purpose, and the Bulldogs' Aly Gamez grabbed an offensive rebound.
That's when things got really insane. As Gamez went up for a game-tying shot - and made it - the whistle blew after someone on the court called a timeout. The problem? Fresno State didn't have any timeouts left. A technical foul was called and the Broncos were able to ice the game at the foul line.
"They talked about an audible and that if the official hears it then they have to call it," Fresno State coach Jaime White said. "I still don't understand it. It's really hard when there's a lot of emotions going on."
A statement from the referee Lisa Jones said in part, "After making sure Fresno State recovered the ball without going out of bounds, I acknowledged the audible timeout that was requested by a player on the court."
The only problem is that nobody knows which player called timeout. A video shot by the Idaho Press and posted to Twitter shows the final play and someone can clearly be heard saying "Timeout! Timeout!"
Of the controversial play, Presnell said, "The official said that she positively heard and saw the timeout, and they didn't have any. She was 100 percent sure. When they say 100 percent sure, then they are 100 percent sure. So we were able to get to the free throw line and get the ball back."
It was the sixth conference title all-time for the Broncos, who also won the WAC tournament title in 2007 before the current five-in-six-year run in the Mountain West.
It will be the seventh NCAA Tournament appearance for the Broncos. They are 0-6 in the previous six trips.
Boise State improved to 15-1 in the Mountain West Tournament in the past six years. And they are now 3-0 as the lower-seeded team after beating the top-seeded Bulldogs on Wednesday.
There was plenty of history made Wednesday night. And memories that will last a lifetime.
"It's something you can't ever take away from us," senior Riley Lupfer said. "It's such a great feeling. I never want this feeling to go away."
Boise State will find out its opponent in the NCAA Tournament on March 16.