March 9, 2008
SAN DIEGO, Calif. - For the first time in eight years, the University of San Diego women's basketball team will be going dancing in the NCAA Tournament, as the Toreros defeated top-seeded Gonzaga University, 70-66, in the championship game of the West Coast Conference championship Sunday afternoon.
San Diego now improves to 19-12 overall, have won four consecutive games, snap a 12-game losing streak to the Zags and remain undefeated in the WCC Championship games, having won on two prior occasions in 1993 and again in 2000. With the loss, the Bulldogs fall to 24-8 overall.
Morgan Henderson paced the USD offense as she scored a team-high 20 points on an impressive 6-for-8 performance from beyond the arc. Four other USD players were in double figures as Kiva Herman scored 16 points, Amber Sprague added in 14 and both Amanda Rego and Sam Child added in 10 points apiece, with Rego dishing out a game-high 12 assists and pulled down seven boards. As a team, USD shot 46 percent from the field and were out rebounded 36-31.
In the early going it was a sea saw battle with both teams taking their turn with the lead. With 17:09 left in the first half, Gonzaga held a 6-5 lead, but a Herman lay-up ignited a 22-4 San Diego run to give the Toreros their biggest lead of the game at 27-10 with 11:06 remaining in the first half. During the run, five different USD players scored a bucket with Henderson hitting three 3-pointers for nine of the 27 San Diego points.
Gonzaga then began to slowly chip away at the Toreros lead and were able to pull back to within nine points at 38-29 going into the break.
In the second frame, the Bulldogs got back on track and were hitting on all cylinders, as they went on a 16-9 run to pull to within two of the Toreros at 47-45 on a Tiffanie Shives three-pointer with just 13:10 remaining in the game.
San Diego then responded with a 5-1 run sparked by a Herman jumper and capped on a Henderson three-pointer to give USD some breathing room at 52-46 with 10:08 to go.
The Bulldogs were relentless though, as they refused to go away, getting to within two on several occasions and got as close as one point on a Michelle Elliott three-pointer to move the score to 60-59 with 4:29 to go.
A sea saw battle then encored with the Zags not allowing USD to get to far ahead, but with the score at 62-61, San Diego then began to show its championship composure. Herman hit a pair of free throws with 1:57 to go to give USD back a three point lead at 64-61, then Herman hit a jumper in the paint to push the lead to five at 66-61, and San Diego never looked back as they held on to claim the win.