Courtesy of Braidon Nourse

LAS VEGAS – The improbable run continues for No. 7 San Diego State.

Well, improbable might not be the right word, according to the Aztecs, who beat No. 6 Boise State 72-69 to advance to coach Stacie Terry-Hutson’s first Mountain West Women’s Basketball Championship title game.

Perhaps Cinderella is a better term?

“Not at all. We know what we have in the locker room,” forward Kim Villalobos said. “We have everything we need to win a championship, and that’s what we came here to do.”

The thing Villalobos, who tallied 11 points, is most referring to is the belief in each other, which the entire team feels more now than ever. Something only built upon during the ups and downs of a season.

The turning point? The Aztecs’ three-point loss to New Mexico just a couple of weeks ago.

“We’ve been preparing all season for this. We’ve been able to execute down the stretch, and that started probably a couple of months ago,” Terry-Hutson said. “At New Mexico, I thought we played a very mature, disciplined game even though we lost by three.

“We’ve been very inconsistent, and I want to reference that New Mexico game at The Pit. I thought that was a turnaround for me because we were able to make plays on the fly and coach on the fly and then react and respond and correct things.”

That was something greatly required of the Aztecs down the stretch, especially after Boise State’s Mya Hansen orchestrated a 13-point turnaround between the end of the third quarter and the start of the fourth to tie the game up at 58 with eight minutes to go. She finished with a team-leading 19 points.

Some aspects of the game, such as runs like the Broncos’, are accounted for and coaches have plans to counteract them. Others, like Adryanna Quezada’s unthinkable ability to hit tough shots while falling down after a barrage of pivots, are not.

At least, not from the outside looking in. The truth, if you ask Villalobos, is Quezada can do those things on a nightly basis.

To propel the Aztecs to a seventh-seed’s fifth-ever appearance in the Mountain West championship game, Quezada notched a season-high 26 points, however many on unreal shots which Terry-Hutson would probably scold any of her other players for taking.

No player has scored that many in a semifinal since Boise State’s Marta Hermina and Fresno State’s Candice White scored 30 and 28 during the same game in 2018. Quezada also logged five rebounds and three assists.

Most of her outburst, she said, she owes to her teammates and coach. The team gives Terry-Hutson flack for using the word ‘imperative’ en masse, but in this case, there maybe was no better word for what her shooting did for her belief, as well as that of the team.

“It was pretty imperative, yes,” Quezada said. “It grew my confidence, but it just also was a testament to the confidence my teammates have instilled for me throughout the year, and I feel like tonight it showed.”

The championship berth marks the sixth time San Diego State will appear on Wednesday night. This time, against a UNLV team with a third straight title in its sights.

The first such opportunity for Terry-Hutson as a coach. Also the most exciting, with the highest of meaning. But to have success, maybe it’s best to put it somewhat in perspective. To just focus on the little things and worry about the context of it all once it’s over.

“You know, we’re just going to try to go out there and present ourselves better than we did when we (played against UNLV) last time,” she said. “We’re going to play our game and do the things we want to do, play hard and defend and hopefully come away with a championship.”