Crumpacker: Friday's Women's #WCChoops Recap
More upsets on day two of "Decade in the Desert"
By John Crumpacker, #WCChoops Columnist
As he prepared his team for its quarterfinal game in the West Coast Conference women’s basketball tournament against No. 2 Saint Mary’s, Pacific coach Bradley Davis did a little self-scouting, too.
“Sometimes on film you’re impressed with your own speed,’’ he said. “We are. They’re not. Fortunately, our style won out in the fourth quarter.’’
Did it ever.
In a significant upset Friday afternoon at the Orleans Arena, the No. 7 Tigers stunned the second-seeded Gaels 77-73 with a strong fourth quarter to advance to a Monday afternoon semifinal vs. No. 6 San Diego. Pacific is the first 7 seed to advance in the WCC Tournament since USD in 2011.
As well, it will be the first 6/7 semifinal in the history of the WCC women’s tourney. Pacific swept the Toreros by scores of 81-68 in San Diego and 62-60 in Stockton.
The other semi features No. 1 seed Gonzaga vs. San Francisco. Although the Zags frittered away much of their 31-point lead, they had more than enough to tame the Waves 81-70 in a Friday quarterfinal.
To pull off the upset of the 20-9 Gaels, the 14-16 Tigers used their superior quickness, both with the ball and defending the ball, to secure 17 steals and force their slower and tiring opponent into a whopping 29 turnovers.
“I don’t know if that was the deciding factor,’’ said Pacific senior GeAnna Luaulu-Summers, who had 20 points, 5 assists and 3 steals. “We’re quick. We’re fast. Everyone in the league knows that. That’s one of our strengths. We knew who to lock into defensively.’’
Aside from the prospect of knocking off one of the heavyweights in the WCC, Luaulu-Summers said her team’s motivation also consisted of, “Honestly, just staying a week in Vegas. We knew we could play with them. We saw they were getting tired. We were going to chip away the whole 40 minutes.’’
Chip, and tip, that is. One sequence inside of a minute to play illustrated Pacific’s want-to. Luaulu-Summers missed the second of two free throws but her 5-foot-6 teammate, Ameela Li, slipped in to tip the ball back to – let’s call her GL-S for brevity’s sake – who was fouled with 43 seconds remaining. She hit one free throw to give the Tigers a 71-64 lead.
The Gaels closed to within 75-73 on a 3-point shot from Jordyn Boesel at 0:07. Li closed out the scoring, and Saint Mary’s, with a pair of free throws seconds later.
“For us to have the fortitude to hang on versus Saint Mary’s … was a real gutsy performance,’’ Davis said.
And now it’s on to San Diego in a most unexpected semifinal. The Toreros got the better of BYU in a Thursday opening-round game by a 61-56 count, prompting Davis to say, “They pulled off a three-game sweep against BYU and are playing really well.
“They are a team that can make runs on you. Their energy and enthusiasm never stops. We have to match that to have success. They have a super senior in Maya Hood. She can do it all.’’
Now that he’s advanced to the semifinals on Monday, Davis said he’ll give his players a “mental break’’ for 24 hours. During which GL-S will get to enjoy her week in Vegas.
In the other semifinal, it will be USF’s Magnificent Seven against top seed Gonzaga. The odds do not look good for the Dons, but that won’t stop them from leaving it all on the court, as they did in their quarterfinal victory over Loyola Marymount.
With two players having left the team before the start of the season and two others lost to season-ending injuries, USF is down to eight healthy players, seven of whom are in the rotation. In its 89-76 win over LMU, it was startling indeed to look at USF’s depleted bench and see three players and a more than twice as many empty seats.
“We’ve been playing with eight players all season,’’ said guard Anna Seilund, who clocked a full 40 minutes vs. LMU, as did fellow guard Shannon Powell. “You get used to it. (However), you do feel it on the court. You find a mental place and tell yourself to get through it.’’
Added Powell, “You just have to push through it.’’
Gonzaga, meanwhile, will have pause for thought after letting a 61-30 lead against Pepperdine in the third period wither to 79-70 in the fourth before two free throws by Jill Barta with 12 seconds left finished off an 81-70 win over the Waves. Barta scored 24 points, 19 in the first half and 12 in the first seven minutes in what coach Lisa Fortier described as her team’s best half of the season.
Little wonder with a 53-24 lead at the break the Zags eased up a bit and lost focus while Pep was doing all it could to whittle into that deficit.
“We came out hot in the first half. Pepperdine came out on fire (in the second half),’’ Barta said. “It was some of what we were doing, some of what they were doing. We can’t get lackadaisical.’’
As for her team’s semifinal opponent on Monday, Fortier said, “In the locker room was the first time we said ‘USF.’ ‘’
Based on results in the regular season, there’s no reason why Gonzaga should be overly concerned with USF, a team it bested twice by scores of 74-47 and 81-57 on the way to a 17-1 conference record.
Then again, as Pacific proved vs. Saint Mary’s, a determined team with nothing to lose but a few more days in Las Vegas should not be overlooked.
Having advanced this far with only two reserves to reasonably call upon (Anna Pierce, Veronica Preciado) among three in all, USF coach Molly Goodenbour said, “These guys are tough. Sometimes they don’t realize how tough they are. I’ve been very proud of them over the course of the season.’’
John Crumpacker spent more than three decades working at the San Francisco Examiner and San Francisco Chronicle. During his career he has covered the full gamut of sports from prep to professionals. Most recently, Crumpacker served as the beat writer for Cal through the end of the 2013-14 season. In addition to covering 10 Olympic Games, Crumpacker served as the beat writer for the San Francisco 49ers. He is a two-time winner of the Track & Field Writers of America annual writing award and has several APSE Top 10 writing awards. Crumpacker has been covering #WCChoops since the 2014-15 season.