March 4, 2006
SPOKANE, Wash. - Chandice Cronk must not believe in fairy tales, because her three-pointer with 3.1 seconds left sent today's WCC semifinal between the Santa Clara Broncos and the San Francisco Dons into overtime, where SCU closed the book on USF's Cinderella run in the tournament with a 75-65 overtime victory.
"This is what March is all about," said head coach Michelle Bento-Jackson following the game. "It wasn't a pretty game in the first half, but both teams competed extremely hard and obviously it comes down to players making plays.
"...That was probably the biggest shot of my entire life."
Sophomore guard Chandice Cronk
"We ran a play to [Michelle] Cozad coming off a screen, and we knew [the USF defense was] going to switch, so we had Chandice and Kayla [Huss] popping out on the top," Bento-Jackson continued, describing the plan for the final shot in regulation. "I made it clear to the team that Michelle would not be open, not to force [the shot] and to swing the ball. Chandice was about as open as she could be."
With the win, Santa Clara advances to tomorrow's WCC Championship game against the fourth-seeded Pepperdine Waves at 1 p.m. Tomorrow's title game will be aired on ESPNU on a tape-delayed basis at 5 p.m. Pacific.
Cronk finished the game with 15 points on 6-of-11 shooting, including 3-of-6 from behind the arc.
"I knew it was good the second it left my hand," Cronk said about her game-tying three. "That was probably the biggest shot of my entire life."
Riding the momentum from Cronk's heroics, Santa Clara controlled the extra session from the start. On the strength of five points from Kasey Monteith and four from Walker, the Broncos outscored the Dons 17-7 in the extra period to advance to tomorrow's WCC title game.
Things looked good for the Broncos at first, as Cozad and Huss paced an 11-2 run in the first four minutes. But the Dons recovered from their sluggish start and behind the play of Carter rode a 15-1 run to a five-point lead in the next five minutes.
Turnovers and San Francisco's zone scheme plagued Santa Clara for much of the game, as in one first-half stretch SCU scored only five points in a span of 8:05 following their hot start. Fortunately for the Broncos Cronk brought a hot hand off the bench and scored seven-straight points to end the SCU drought and provide the team a 21-19 lead.
"Today I felt that a lot of our turnovers were unforced," Bento-Jackson said regarding Santa Clara's turnovers. "We were playing a little tight and making uncharacteristic decisions on the offensive end."
From that point the teams combined for only 12 points in the final 5:05 of the half, including three-pointers by Huss and USF's Shay Rollins in the final minute to send the teams into the break tied at 26-apiece.
The second half continued to be a back-and-forth affair as neither team led by more than four through the first 11 minutes. For the game, there were eight lead changes and the score was tied a total of nine times.
Santa Clara held a 43-40 lead following a Cozad three but the Dons answered with seven consecutive points, capped by a Carter three, to take a 47-43 lead. Carter added a baseline jumper moments later to give USF its largest lead of the day at 51-45.
With just over a minute remaining a Cozad driving lay-up brought the Broncos to within one, but LaShaunte Stephens banked in a jumper with only a second left on the shot clock to put USF back up by three.
That set the table for a wild final 32 seconds, which saw Santa Clara miss a three-pointer but retain possession when USF knocked the rebound out-of-bounds. A Cozad drive failed to yield a call, and the ensuing melee for the rebound resulted in a jump-ball call which gave the Dons possession with 6.3 seconds left.
San Francisco, though, fumbled the inbound pass and allowed Santa Clara to create a tie-up which gave the Broncos one final opportunity with 5.2 seconds showing on the clock.
Cozad, double-teamed as soon as she received the inbound pass, got the ball to Huss who found Cronk just right of the top of the key with a clear look. The Wasilla, Alaska native hit nothing but net to send the SCU contingent in the stands into a frenzy as the game went into overtime.
With a new lease on life this season, Santa Clara will face the Pepperdine Waves, who they defeated twice in the regular season, in tomorrow's WCC title game. Tip-off is set for 1 p.m.