LAS VEGAS, Nev. - In the opening round of the West Coast Conference Championships, Santa Clara women's basketball topped Portland by a final of 66-58. Santa Clara advances to play the No. 2 seed San Diego Friday at 2 pm at the Orleans Arena.
The win puts Santa Clara at 11-17 overall and ends Portland's season at 4-26.
"We're really excited to fight another day. All you can ask for at this time of the year is to play your heart out," said Santa Clara head coach JR Payne. "We'll never play a perfect game but I'm thrilled with how we played today. Success for this first season is if we play our hearts out on every possession and today I felt that we did that. Win or lose, I could say that I was so proud of the team for how they played."
Santa Clara shot 46.4 (26 of 56) from the field and 28.6 % (4 of 14) from beyond the arc. The Broncos had 15 rebounds, 18 assists, nine turnovers, two blocks, and four steals.
Nici Gilday led the offense with 14 points, including 4 of 4 from the free throw line. She was 2 of 10 from the three. Marie Bertholdt scored 12 with six rebounds while Morgan McGwire scored 10 with seven rebounds. Emily Wolph added 10 points and five assists.
"We've had a chance to get the jitters out and play in the arena going into tomorrow," said Gilday. "The extra pressure of win or go home can help a lot. We have a lot of freshmen that haven't been here before so today's game really gives them a chance to relax a little bit. We're looking forward to San Diego tomorrow."
Portland shot 32.6% (14 of 43) from the field and 31.6% (6 of 19) from three. The Pilots had 28 rebounds, seven assists, 14 turnovers, two blocks, and four steals.
Portland had three players score double figures: Cassandra Brown (18), Cassandra Thompson (16) and Kari Luttinen (14). Thompson was 12 of 15 from the free throw line, adding six rebounds. Brown also had six rebounds and Jasmine Wooton added five assists.
The Broncos started the game 3-3 from the field but the Pilots were 2-2 and hit a pair of free throws to keep the game tied. After Portland took an 8-6 lead, Emily Wolph hit a three at 16:16 to give Santa Clara a one-point lead.
Two free throws by Brown got the Pilots within two at 13:26, but Santa Clara came right back with a three and a layup to make it a seven-point game and wouldn't trail again. The Broncos would end up on an 8-0 run over two minutes that put them up double-digits for the first time in the game. The run ended at the 10: 10 mark on a layup by Thompson that made the score 20-12.
Santa Clara went on a 9-0 run over 5:04 to get their lead to 17-points. The run was highlighted by a three from Gilday with eight minutes on the clock. Portland was 1-9 from the floor with four turnovers. Portland finally got back on the board with two free throws from Thompson at 4:52 to make the score 29-14.
Portland answered with a 7-0 run of its own over 1:05. Wooton nailed a three to lead the way. Santa Clara called a timeout to regroup. Maddison Allen converted a layup with a foul out of the timeout to end the run but missed the free throw.
The Broncos took a 35-22 lead into the locker room at the half.
Santa Clara shot 45.5% (15-33) from the field and 44.4% (4-9) from three in the first half. The Broncos had 19 rebounds, 11 assists, four turnovers, one block, and three steals. Bertholdt led the offense with nine points and three rebounds. Gilday and Wolph both added eight points while Wolph had five assists.
Portland shot 33.3% (7-21) from the field and 22.2% (2-9) from three in the first half. The Pilots had 14 rebounds, four assists, nine turnovers, two blocks, and one steals. Thompson led the offense with nine points on 5-6 shooting from the free throw line. Brown scored seven while Wooton had four assists.
A three by Brown with 17:07 on the clock in the second half got the Bronco lead down to single digits. Morgan McGwire got the lead back to 42-31 with a layup on a nice pass from Raquel Avila.
The lead got to 15 with a 6-0 Santa Clara run over 3:24. Portland went 4:32 without scoring before Thompson made a free throw at 12:50 to end the run. On the next Pilots' possession Luttinen made a jumper that made the score 46-34.
A 9-0 run made the score 46-40 Broncos. Rocky Avila knocked down a jumper from the elbow to end the run and Courtney Lisowski converted a layup on the next Santa Clara possession.
The teams went back and forth while the game clock winded down. Gilday went to the free throw line and knocked down two with 2:09 on the clock to put Santa Clara up 60-49. On the other end Luttinen made a three to keep it within eight.
With three on the shot clock Wolph made a layup after four straight Pilots points. A defensive stop led to Avila going to the line to shoot free throws where she converted both tries to get the Broncos back up by 10.
Both teams added free throws and Santa Clara won by eight.
Game Notes: Nici Gilday moved up on the Santa Clara single season list. She is now: No. 9 in field goals (181), No. 2 in field goal attempts (462), and No. 8 in threes made (68). Gilday and Bertholdt moved into No. 11 on the single season tandem-scoring list (807) as well.