GU Women Advance to WCC Finals
Top seed Gonzaga University women’s basketball earned a hard fought 83-78 victory over No. 4 seed Saint Mary’s College in the semifinals of the Zappos.com West Coast Conference Championship Saturday at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.
The No. 20/22 Bulldogs will now play in the WCC Championship game for the sixth-straight year. The contest is set for Monday at Noon with the opponent being either No. 2 seed BYU or No. 3 seed University of San Diego.
“I am glad we don’t have to play them [Saint Mary’s] again,” stated Zag head coach Kelly Graves right after the teams five-point victory. “They played us three times this season, and all three went down to the last minute. We were fortunate to come out on the good end in two of them and especially today.”
The Gaels and Bulldogs split the two regular-season games this year with SMC earning a 66-63 victory Jan. 14 at the McCarthey Athletic Center to end a 34-game WCC regular season winning streak for GU. The Zags then avenged the earlier loss with a 75-70 win in Moraga, Calif., Jan. 28.
This game too came down to the wire as it was a tie ball game with eight minutes left in the contest and just a 3-point Gonzaga edge with 1:28 remaining.
Gonzaga, whose first lead of the second half came with 14:18 remaining, broke the 11 th tie of the contest on an all-important 3-pointer by junior Taelor Karr – her third of the second half and second in three minutes – to give GU a 73-70 advantage at the 7:26 mark.
The Bulldogs were able to push their lead to seven with 4:07 left on a layup by senior Katelan Redmon followed by a fast break layup by Kayla Standish, with the assist to Karr. The Gaels, on fire all contest, uncharacteristically turned the ball three times in Gonzaga’s push to a seven point lead and missed all three shots they took.
Saint Mary’s did all it could to keep pace with Gonzaga down the stretch though. SMC got to the line and sank four free throw attempts, and point guard Alex Carbonel, playing in just her second game since an ankle injury forced her to the sideline right after the Zag’s win at SMC Jan. 28, scored a layup to put GU’s edge at just three 79-76 with 1:28 remaining.
A huge offensive board by Redmon, after a missed lay-in by sophomore Jazmine Redmon, turned into a tip-in and a GU five point lead with 33 seconds remaining.
Carbonel again cut it to three with two made free throws after getting foul with 19 seconds left on the clock but Katelan Redmon sealed the deal making the only two free throw attempts she would shoot all day.
“We played a lot better defense in the second half,” explained Graves of holding the Gaels to just 29 in the final half. “But there was a lot more offense in the first half on both ends.”
Saint Mary’s actually led Gonzaga at half by the score of 49-47. The 49 points and 65.5 shooting percentage (19-fo-29) by the Gaels was a first half season-high. Gonzaga, whose 47 points were five points off tying a first-half high, didn’t shoot too shabby either, nailing 19 of their 33 shot attempts for a 57.6 field goal percentage.
Standish was incredible for Gonzaga all game, but especially in the opening 20 minutes. The forward hit 7-of-10 from the field and 6-of-6 at the charity stripe for 20 first half points. She even scored the final eight points of the half for GU to help cut a late 6-point Gael lead to the two-point halftime advantage.
For the game, Standish finished with a career-high 31 points; hitting 10-of-19 from the floor and 11-of-12 at the charity stripe. Katelan Redmon added 20 points, while sophomore Haiden Palmer chipped in 14 and Karr added 11 and seven assists.
Saint Mary’s was led by Jackie Nared with 26 points.
Note: Standish become the first player to tally 20 points in a half since Courtney Vandersloot scored 21 in the Zags 2011 Elite Eight loss to Stanford University.