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Grand Canyon beats New Mexico State for WAC basketball title

It took three tries, but Grand Canyon will dance for the first time.

The top-seeded Antelopes had lost to New Mexico State in the past two WAC tournament finals but turned the tables on the third-seeded Aggies in a 74-56 win Saturday night at the Orleans Arena to earn the conference’s automatic NCAA tournament berth.

Tournament MVP Player Jovan Blacksher scored 19 points on 7-of-10 shooting and grabbed seven rebounds to lead Grand Canyon (17-6), which went on a 12-0 run to take a 19-9 lead and never trailed again.

“It’s kind of surreal at the moment,” Grand Canyon coach Bryce Drew said. “It has been a journey since I got the job with COVID and these guys and putting together a new team. We only had two guys who had played in the WAC tournament, so I’m kind of in awe.”

The Grand Canyon defense limited New Mexico State (12-8) to 36.4 percent shooting, including 9 for 32 from 3-point range (28.1 percent).

The Antelopes held a 39-25 rebounding advantage and outscored the Aggies 17-6 off the bench, 24-18 in the paint and 14-7 on the free-throw line.

“We were loose, but we were very focused,” Drew said. “Going back to last Saturday, these have been the best eight days of our season, by far our three best games.”

All-tournament team honoree Asbjorn Midtgaard had 12 points and eight rebounds for Grand Canyon, and Chance McMillian made three first-half 3-pointers that helped the Antelopes extend their lead.

“The McMillian kid really changed the game,” New Mexico State Chris Jans said. “He came off the bench and hit three 3s. That’s what happens in this game. Somebody steps up or comes off the bench that isn’t necessarily a guy that averages a bunch and has a good game. He was a big spark for them.”

Evan Gilyard scored 18 points to lead the Aggies, who had only five assists on their 20 field goals.

Women’s championship

No. 1 California Baptist 78, No. 3 Grand Canyon 60: Tiena Neale scored 21 points, and the Lancers tied a season high with 17 3-pointers to close a perfect season Saturday afternoon.

California Baptist (24-0) is in its third year of a four-year transition to become an official Division I school, which makes it ineligible for the NCAA tournament. Utah Valley, the WAC’s second-place team in the regular season, grabbed the league’s automatic bid.

Katie Scott had 21 points and 10 rebounds for Grand Canyon (18-7), which shot 30.6 percent from the floor and was dominated on the boards 49-33.

Contact Jason Orts at jorts@reviewjournal.com. Follow @SportsWithOrts on Twitter.

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