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WCC Tournament Semifinals Recaps

March 9, 2009

NO. 1 GONZAGA - 74

LAS VEGAS, Nev. - Top seeded Gonzaga University women's basketball earned a trip to the West Coast Conference Tournament championship game for the third-straight season by defeating No. 4 seed Loyola Marymount University 74-63 in the tournament semifinal Sunday in front of 1,803 rowdy fans at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, Nev.

The Bulldogs will face No. 6 seed University of San Diego in Monday's noon PST final on ESPNU, the Toreros winning a third straight tournament game with a 74-64 upset of second-seeded University of Portland in Sunday's second semifinal. The Bulldogs, who will be seeking their second WCC Tournament title in three years, downed USD 109-73 on the road and topped the Toreros 77-67 in the regular-season finale at Gonzaga this season. USC downed the Bulldogs 70-66 in last year's tourney final at the Jenny Craig PAvilion on the USD campus.

"I want to congratulate Coach Julie Wilhoit and her team," said head coach Kelly Graves after the contest. "They really played hard and LMU deserves a lot of credit. They had a great season and they played with a lot of heart right till the end. I am happy we are moving on, obviously we built a nice cushion - I don't think they ever got inside 10."

The Bulldogs (25-6) had three players score in double-figure points, while two grabbed double-digit rebounds, to pace GU to the 11-point victory. Reigning WCC Player of the Year Courtney Vandersloot scored a game-high 21 points, 10 of which came from the charity stripe, and dished out eight assists. Senior Jami Schaefer scored a season-high 20 points, hitting 7-of-12 from the field, including 2-of-4 from behind the 3-point arc and was 4-of-4 at the free throw line.

It was Schaefer, who sprang Gonzaga to life in the opening half, nailing five field goals, including one 3-pointer for 11 points. The senior guard, who missed nine games with a PCL tear in her left knee, put together one of her best performances of the year when it counted most. The Spokane native turned a Gonzaga five-point lead into a 10-point advantage, draining a 3-pointer, followed by a jumper to put the score at 31-21 with 7:24 remaining."I was out for a while and it is tough to come back full speed but my teammates just had confidence in me," stated Schaefer, who has been back eight game since her injury. "They kept telling me, "You got it. You got it."

The Bulldogs held tight over the final seven minutes and went into the lockerroom with a 15-point lead at 45-30; their largest advantage of the half.

The Zags hit a smoking 54.3 percent (19-for-35) from the field, including 36.4 percent (4-for-11) on 3-pointers, and hit 75.0 percent (3-of-4) of their free throw attempts. Gonzaga held a 22-18 edge in rebounds in the first half, and blocked four shots and made three steals.

The Lions continued to fight in the second half, quickly slicing the Zags lead to just 10 at 45-35 after they opened the final half with a 3-pointer by Lisa Helmers and a layup by Cassady Moore at 19:23.

Gonzaga did not allow its lead to dip under double-digits though; quickly pushing their edge to 16 at 54-38 with a 9-3 run that was capped off by a Vandersloot layup at the 15:14 mark.

The closest Loyola Marymount got the rest of the way was 12, but Gonzaga always had an answer.

Along with Vandersloot and Schaefer, junior Heather Bowman also scored in double-figures, finishing with 12. Bowman also grabbed 13 boards to register her eighth double-double of the season and 21st of her career.

Loyola Marymount was led by Renahy Young and Alex Cowling who scored 18 and 11 points respectively. Cowling also had 10 rebounds in the setback for the Lions.

Gonzaga finished the game hitting 48.1 percent (26-of-54) from the field, 33.3 percent (5-of-15) on 3-pointers and 73.9 percent (17-of-23) at the free throw line. Loyola Marymount was limited to just 30.3 percent (23-of-76) shooting.

Monday's game will be broaedcast on 1510 KGA radio in Spokane and on the internet.

NO. 6 SAN DIEGO - 74

Las Vegas, NV - The USD women's basketball team won their third straight WCC Tournament game with today's 74-64 victory over No. 2 seed Portland to advance to Monday's championship game against No. 1 seed Gonzaga. The game will be televised nationally on ESPNU at 12 noon. Senior forward Kiva Herman turned in her third straight outstanding game and finished with 22 points. Now with 72 points in three games, she has set a new WCC Tournament record for combined points. Freshman point guard Dominique Connors scored a personal-best 20 points in aid in the win.

"These two young women (Kiva & Dominique) were outstanding today," said head coach Cindy Fisher. "For a true freshman, Dominique is an extension of me on the floor at the point. And Kiva continues to rise to occasion and do remarkable things. We also got a lot of quality minutes from players off the bench today and I give the entire team a lot of credit."

For the third straight game the Toreros got out of the gates slow as they fell behind 10-2. Portland extended their lead to as many as 11 points (31-20) with 5:12 left in the half before the Toreros made their move. Over the next three minutes the Toreros went on a 12-0 run to take a 32-31 lead with 2:35 to go. Herman scored on a layup and added two free throws; Sam Child connected on a three-pointer; Amber Sprague cashed in on two free throws; and Morgan Henderson put USD up for the first time with a three-pointer. Portland retook the lead on a Tara Cronin basket, but Conners made both free throws for a 34-33 halftime lead.

In the 2nd half USD jumped out with an 8-2 run to go up 42-35, and they continued to roll the rest of the way. Over the final 20 minutes of action, the Toreros shot 65% from the field (13-20) and 75% from the free throw line (12-16) in holding off all Portland threats. USD's biggest lead came at 66-52 on a jumper by Herman with 3:15 to go, and although the Pilots would pull to within 8 points (72-64), it would be with just 44 ticks left. For USD, Morgan Henderson also notched another double-digit outing with 13 points. Portland (17-13) was led by guard Laiken Dollente with 20 points.

The Toreros meet up with Gonzaga for the second straight year in the WCC championship game. The Toreros won last year's meeting in San Diego at the JCP, 70-66. In head-to-head meetings this season, Gonzaga won both games - 109-73 in San Diego (Jan. 31) and 77-67 in Spokane (Feb. 28).

Added Coach Fisher, "Gonzaga is a fantastic basketball team. We will need to control our possessions and how we attack them."