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WCC Women's Basketball Championship First Round Recaps

March 6, 2010

LAS VEGAS, Nev. The first day of the 2010 Zappos.com WCC Women's Basketball Championships proved to be an exciting one as both first round games came down to the wire. No. 8 seeded Santa Clara pulled off a 68-67 upset of No. 5 seeded San Diego, while No. 6 Loyola Marymount held on for a 61-54 win over No. 7 seed San Francisco.

No. 8 Santa Clara - 68
No. 5 San Diego - 67

Maggie Goldenberger made a game-winning jump shot with 3.3 seconds left to lift Santa Clara to a thrilling upset victory over San Diego, 68-67, in the first game of the 2010 West Coast Conference tournament.

The victory was especially sweet for a Santa Clara team that refused to let its disappointing season end with another close loss. The eighth-seeded Broncos (4-26) saw a six-point lead evaporate in the final moments before Goldenberger dropped-in the game-winner.

"We've been close so many times in the regular season," said second-year Santa Clara head coach Jennifer Mountain. "For these players to pull out a victory and to do it like that; I'm so proud of them and happy for them. Today it went our way."

With 34.1 seconds left, San Diego (15-14) cut a three-point SCU lead to one, 66-65, and was in a position of having to foul. However, a backcourt turnover gave USD new life and Dominique Connors put the fifth-seeded Toreros ahead by one on a pull-up jumper with 13.1 to play.

On Santa Clara's final possession, the Broncos broke USD's full-court press and dribble penetration by Telisha Anderson freed-up Goldenberger at the top of the key.

The Broncos received 21 points and 10 rebounds from All-WCC power forward Lena Gipson, who played the final 13 minutes with a swollen right eye after being elbowed in the lane.

"I was going to finish the game even if I couldn't see out of that eye," said Gipson. "I was not going to let it be a factor."

Gipson made three straight SCU baskets in a three-minute span down the stretch to keep the Broncos in front. Gipson entered the week among the nation's leading rebounders. Her double-double Friday was the 34th of her two-year SCU career."When (Nya) Mason fouled out, that was a huge opportunity for me to take it at them and make them guard me," said Gipson. "That's probably why Maggie was open on that last play cause they were being forced to double-team."

Mason - USD's 6-foot-2 center - committed her fifth foul with 5:08 to play but Conners single-handedly kept the Toreros in it. The All-WCC sophomore guard scored eight straight for USD in the second half and nearly got the Toreros into the second round with her late game heroics.

"I can't say enough about what (Connors) has done for this team and what she will continue to do," said San Diego head coach Cindy Fisher.

Connors scored 22 points to lead all San Diego players. Connors, Morgan Henderson and Sara Vanderhorst each had eight points by halftime. The trio contributed to a 13-4 USD run to close out the half and allow the Toreros a 37-30 lead at the break.

Santa Clara had played inspired basketball through the first 15 minutes. Bronco guards Rhianna Faithfull, Alyssa Shoji and Ashley Armstrong combined to make five first-half 3s, complementing an impressive opening 20 minutes by Gipson, which included 11 points and seven rebounds.

San Diego held a tentative 44-38 lead seven minutes into the second half when another mid-range basket from Connors extended the USD advantage to eight.

The Broncos immediately fought back, using a driving layup by Armstrong and Faithfull's third 3 to trim the lead down to 46-43 with 11:46 left. Moments later Santa Clara would surge ahead, 47-46, on back-to-back hoops by Goldenberger and Anderson.

Anderson - who generated most of her seven points off the drive - would give Santa Clara its largest lead, 57-51, with 6:36 left.

Goldenberger finished with 12 points and five rebounds. Faithfull scored nine and Armstrong eight.

"I think today we finally put it all together," said Shoji. "We were in games all season that we ended up losing right at the end. Today we got our shot and we did it."

Santa Clara advances to play No. 4 Portland in the quarterfinal round Saturday at 12 p.m.

No. 6 Loyola Marymount - 61
No. 7 San Francisco - 54

LMU's defense clamped down over the final 3:32, holding San Francisco to a single basket to emerge victorious, 61-54 in the opening round game of the 2010 Zappos.com West Coast Conference Championships Friday afternoon at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, Nev. Sophomore Alex Cowling had a double-double of 19 points and 11 rebounds to set the school's single-season scoring record as the sixth-seeded Lions (13-16) won their third straight over the seventh-seeded Dons (5-27). LMU advances to Saturday's quarterfinal against #3 Pepperdine, which will start at approximately 2:30 p.m.

In both of the teams' regular-season matchups, LMU needed to overcome a halftime deficit for the victory. Things were no different in the postseason as LMU shot 50% in the second half while holding USF to 20% after the break to snap a two-game losing streak.

Needing eight points to break Kate Murray's LMU single-season record of 492 points, Cowling easily topped that with eight in the first half and finished with her sixth double-double of the season. Junior Renahy Young added 14 points despite battling foul trouble and senior Jenna Sybesma came off the bench for 10 points and five rebounds on 5-for-7 shooting.

Thanks to its second-half push, LMU shot 47.8% (22-for-46) overall but just 21.4% (3-for-14) three-point range while connecting on 70% (14-for-20) at the line. That helped overcome a disparate USF rebounding advantage as the Dons out-rebounded LMU 44-36, including 25-6 on the offensive end.

Rheina Ale led the Dons with 13 points and Heidi Anton added 12 off the bench. USF shot 30.8% (20-for-65) for the game, 37.5% (6-for-16) from long-range, and just 50% (8-for-16) at the line.

From the tip, it was clearly going to be a close game throughout. LMU got its usual production out of Young and Cowling, who scored nine of the team's first 11 points, but USF came back with an 8-0 run to push ahead 18-11. That's when Young picked up her second foul at the 10:58 mark of the first half and was forced to the bench. Without their second-leading scorer, the other Lions needed others to step up and Sybesma filled that void, scoring six straight points to keep LMU within striking distance.

With USF leading 23-19 with 3:49 to play in the first, Cowling, who had six points to that point, went to the line for a one-and-one, hitting both to pass Murray for the single-season LMU scoring record. It was then time for the seniors to get in on the act and back-to-back threes from Lisa Helmers and Kavita Goss got the Lions back to within one, 28-27. But a three-point play by Ale and a jumper in the lane by Donnisha Taylor sent USF into the locker room with a 33-29 advantage. Offensive boards were the difference in the first half as USF crashed the boards to the tune of 11 o-boards while LMU grabbed just two.

Well-rested from her first half foul trouble, Young knocked down a three to open the second and that was followed by a driving left-handed layup by Sybesma that gave LMU its first lead since the 13:25 mark of the first half. From that point, the lead switched hands five times over the next five minutes.

LMU gave itself some breathing room when Sybesma spun in the lane and kissed it off the glass to give LMU a 46-43 lead but Young picked up her fourth foul moments later and was forced to the bench with 7:15 left. In her absence, Cowling scored LMU's next five points to open up a 51-46 lead.

USF would not go away, however, and back-to-back threes from Anton and Ale thrust the Dons back on top, 52-51 with 4:01 to go but that would be the Dons' last basket for over three minutes as Young and Cowling took over. Back in the game, Young beat Ale off the dribble to lay it in to give the lead back to LMU. Moments later, she found Cowling for a 14-footer to make it a three-point Lion lead. After a free throw from junior Melanie Ysaguirre made it a two-possession game, Young came off a screen and finished in the lane for a 58-52 LMU lead with 1:33 left and the Lions got stops over the final 93 seconds to run out winners.

LMU will now face local rivals Pepperdine, who earned a first-round bye in the tournament in Saturday's second quarterfinals. The Waves swept the season series against the Lions, winning 82-65 in Malibu on January 9 and 72-62 at LMU on February 6. The teams have met just twice before in the WCC Tournament, with Pepperdine winning in the 2006 semifinals and the Lions taking the 2007 semifinals.