MISSOULA, Mont. -- Weber State came into Dahlberg Arena before its Big Sky Conference semifinal game with North Dakota wearing purple warm-up shirts with "Rise To The Occasion" printed on the front.
The Wildcats took the slogan literally.
With WSU trailing by 12 points early in the second half to a UND team that was outshooting the best shooters in the country, freshman forward Joel Bolomboy rose up for three straight soaring slam dunks that lifted WSU back into a game it eventually won 76-74.
Davion Berry rose to the occasion to tie his career-high with 25 points as Weber State survived the semifinal slugfest against North Dakota to win its 13th straight game and advance to the Big Sky Tournament championship game.
Senior shooting guard Scott Bamforth rose up to drain a 3 from the corner to tie the game at 74-all with 1:08 remaining and stole the ball from UND's Jamal Webb to set up Kyle Tresnak's turnaround jumper with 19 seconds to go. Tresnak's basket became the game-winner when North Dakota's Aaron Anderson missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer while all-Big Sky first-teamer Troy Huff, who finished with 22 points, was kept out of the play.
Bolomboy came off the bench to contribute 13 points, eight rebounds and five blocks for Weber State (26-5). Bamforth added 13 points and seven rebounds, Frank Otis had nine points and Tresnak, in foul trouble early, finished with eight.
WSU will meet host Montana in the tournament championship game tonight at 7 p.m. on ESPNU with an opportunity to earn its first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 2007.
North Dakota (16-16), which lost to WSU by 32 and 14 points in two regular-season meetings, gave the Wildcats all they could handle Friday.
Huff was the one rising up to slam home an alley oop for a 52-40 lead with 17:10 to go. At that moment, UND was shooting 60.0 percent while holding Weber State, which began the game ranked No. 1 in the nation in field goal and 3-point percentage, to 39.5 percent.
Bamforth said he realized the Wildcats needed a spark to avoid the upset -- now, not later.
"I knew in that timeout if we didn't do it now, we weren't going to do it," he said.
After the teams traded baskets twice, Bolomboy rose up, breaking free for a one-handed jam. Next trip down, a two-handed reverse, then a thunderous alley oop tossed up from the baseline by Gelaun Wheelwright.
"When I came back in I just tried to get us going defensively," Bolomboy said. "Then opportunities presented themselves on offense and I just tried to take the opportunities when they happened to come in a positive way."
Three stops, three dunks and WSU was on its way to an 11-0 run.
"It was huge," Weber State coach Randy Rahe said. "He came in an gave us great energy, great confidence and it was defensively too. He got a couple of blocks, he ran the floor, he got a couple of dunks. The guys like it when he dunks. I like it when he dunks. It was a huge momentum (builder) for us."
Wheelwright's layup gave WSU its first lead of the second half at 65-64, but North Dakota retook the lead going down the stretch.
The 'Cats didn't quit.
"This team is resilient. They love to fight through adversity and that's exactly what we needed to do tonight. It wasn't pretty, it was tough, it was like slugging rats out there, but we had to find a way and that's what they did," Rahe said. "We got just enough stops, we had some guys really step up."
Rahe credited UND for playing its best game of the year.
"It was a great college game," said North Dakota coach Brian Jones. "It was fun as a coach, fun for the players and fun for the fans. It was just two teams really slugging it out in the type of game you want in March. We talked to our guys ------ it was going to come down to that last four-minute game and it did, the last couple of possessions."
Jamal Webb had 13 points and Mitch Wilmer and Brandon Brekke each added 11 for North Dakota.
Huff, who had a combined 21 points in their first two meetings, topped that Friday but was reduced to a decoy on the last possession and Aaron Anderson's 3-point try from the wing as time expired wouldn't go in.
Now the Wildcats advance to the championship game, with their hopes of going to the NCAA Tournament still rising.