Rae Boothe stepped off the floor with her team, knowing her players were suffering from heartbreak.
They had come so close, only to fall short, and that empty-handed walk off the court and to the locker room had to weight on each of the Falcons at every stride.
But as Boothe watched, she saw knew each of those steps were also steps forward.
The UTPB women’s basketball team offered one of the top teams in the Lone Star Conference every bit of challenge it could handle on Thursday in the Falcon Dome, but ultimately, league-leading Texas A&M-Commerce escaped with an 88-77 win in overtime.
Upset-minded UTPB led in the final minutes of regulation, but Commerce’s Brianna Wise knocked down a game-tying 3-pointer with less than a minute to play to make it 71-71, then the visitors held on in the final seconds to force extra time.
In overtime, the Falcons, who only dressed and played eight players, seemed to run out of gas.
The loss drops UTPB to 5-12 on the season and 2-5 in the Lone Star Conference, while Commerce moved to 11-5, 8-1.
Commerce led 42-34 at the halftime break, the only apparent difference between the teams on the floor coming by way of a discrepancy of 13 first-half fouls called on UTPB to seven for Commerce — and an unlikely halfcourt buzzer-beater from Commerce to end the half.
UTPB charged back in the second half and took the lead in the fourth, led by Sierra LaGrande, who scored 20, and Victoria Lopez, who scored 18, but Commerce survived.
“The score is not reflective of how hard they played,” Boothe said of her players after Commerce pulled away in overtime.
Thursday’s performance was an improvement in Boothe’s eyes, after UTPB lost to Texas A&M-Kingsville 59-55 and to Angelo State 86-57 on the road last week.
“I think overall we did a pretty good job, considering where we were a week ago,” Boothe said. “Yeah, I think we can look back at the game and see we gave up too many and-1’s, second-chance points.
“But I was happy with how hard we played for the majority of the game.”
UTPB chipped away at Commerce’s halftime lead in the third, tying it up on a 7-0 run late in the frame.
The Falcons trailed 55-48 with just more than two minutes to play in the third quarter before Lopez converted a three-point play. After a defensive stop, Khali Pippins-Tryon scored for UTPB, then Heather Crittenden poked away a steal at midcourt, and raced in a fastbreak layup to tie it at 55 with 1:19 left in the quarter.
Lopez knocked down a jumper to give UTPB its first lead of the second half early in the fourth, and the teams battled back and forth over what was a one-possession margin through most of period.
When Commerce scored to cut UTPB’s lead to one point at 69-68 with less than three minutes to go, Crittenden answered right back to make it 71-68 on the ensuing possession — but Wise still knocked down her clutch 3-pointer a few moments later.
On UTPB’s last chance to break the tie in the final minute of regulation, LaGrande’s shot from the corner was blocked, and Commerce took the ball and called a timeout with 12.8 seconds left.
The Falcons came up with a stop on the other end to force overtime, but Commerce took control in the extra frame.
“They played their hearts out,” Boothe said of her players. “I think they got tired, but most things considered, if we just were a little bit smarter throughout the game” the result could’ve been different, Boothe said.
Bretherton scored 14 points while Pippins-Tryon added 12. Jackie Perez, a 5-foot-3 guard, hauled in a game-high 11 rebounds.
“That’s some heart right there,” Boothe said, pointing to Perez’s performance.
“We need those type of players to do really well if we’re going to compete.”
The Falcons return to the floor Saturday, when they host Tarleton State (11-6, 5-4). Tipoff is set for 2 p.m.
TEXAS A&M-COMMERCE (11-5 overall, 8-1 Lone Star Conferece)
Brianna Wise 7-9 4-9 21, Artaejah Gay 7-16 3-3 17, Princess Davis 6-11 2-2 16, Alex Nance 3-9 4-6 12, Melanie Ransom 4-12 1-1 10, Jenna Price 3-5 3-4 10, Jasmyn Eckerman 0-1 2-4 2, Lauren Parker 0-3 0-0 0, London Holland 0-1 0-0 0, Agang Tac 0-2 0-0 0, Courtney Fields 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 30-69 19-29 88.
UTPB (5-12, 2-5)
Sierra LaGrande 7-12 0-1 20, Victoria Lopez 7-15 2-3 18, Kayla Bretherton 6-15 2-4 14, Khali Pippins-Tryon 4-10 3-3 12, Heather Crittenden 3-9 0-0 6, Alexandria Dockery 2-5 0-0 5, Jackie Perez 1-5 0-0 2, Chynna Rivera 0-4 0-0 0. Totals 30-75 7-11 77.
Commerce………….. 26.. 16 14 15 17 — 88
UTPB………………….. 19.. 15 21 16 6 — 77
3-Point goals — Commerce 9-17 (Brianna Wise 3-4, Alex Nance 2-6, Princess Davis 2-2, Melanie Ransom 1-2, Jenna Price 1-1, Artaejah Gay 0-1, London Holland 0-1, Jasmyn Eckerman 0-0, Lauren Parker 0-0, Agang Tac 0-0, Courtney Fields 0-0), UTPB 10-32 (Sierra LaGrande 6-11, Victoria Lopez 2-4, Khali Pippins-Tryon 1-5, Alexandria Dockery 1-1, Jackie Perez 0-4, Kayla Bretherton 0-3, Chynna Rivera 0-3, Heather Crittenden 0-1). Total fouls — Commerce 15, UTPB 27. Fouled out — UTPB: Sierra LaGrande. Technical fouls — None. Rebounds — Commerce 53 (Brianna Wise 9), UTPB 35 (Jackie Perez 11). Assists — Commerce 16 (Princess Davis 6), UTPB 17 (Victoria Lopez 7).