A year after pulling off the biggest regular season win in program history, the Gonzaga Bulldogs almost did it again. The Gonzaga women fought valiantly, but fell 76-70 in overtime at Maples Pavilion to third-ranked Stanford on Sunday night. In a very ugly and physical game, the Cardinal had the final push late in overtime and a poor shooting night from Jenn Wirth and two starters fouling out was too much to overcome.
The first quarter opened fast and furious. The pace was frenetic and both teams were able to score. The Bulldogs held a 17-16 advantage after 10 minutes. From there, the game got really physical and, at times, ugly. Both teams struggled to score in the second, and a plethora of fouls were called. Freshman Kayleigh Troung kept the Zags afloat by going 5-for-6 from the line. In the end, the Zags led 31-28 heading into the half.
The third quarter was similar to the second, with both teams shooting poorly and turning the ball over. But Stanford got a couple huge buckets from top freshman Hayley Jones, and a fortuitous call to give them an edge. Stanford was up two when they threw the ball out of bounds. The refs said it deflected off Gonzaga (it did not) and Stanford immediately got a bucket to go up by four. LeeAnne Wirth also fouled out in the third quarter. Jill Townsend hit a huge three at the buzzer to cut the Cardinal lead to two heading to the final stanza.
After the Zags took a 49-48 lead, they forced a 35 foot heave at the end of the shot clock, but could not get the defensive rebound, allowing Stanford an And-1. They missed the free-throw and then got that offensive rebound, too, allowing them to score again. Instead of having the ball up by a point, they had the ball down by three with five minutes to go.
But as they did all game, the Bulldogs battled back again. Katie Campbell fed Melody Kempton for a beautiful layup, and Kempton hit two more free throws the following possession to tie the game with 2:45 to go.
Spokane’s own Lexie Hull, who missed last year’s contest with injury, hit a huge three to give Stanford a two-point lead with 90 seconds to go. Trailing by three after a timeout, Gonzaga drew up a beautiful play for Townsend to nail a three at the top of the key and tie the game. After the Bulldogs got another stop on defense, Jessie Loera was fouled on a drive. She nailed both free throws to give the Zags a 62-60 lead with 17 seconds to go. Stanford responded with a layup to tie it with 6.1 to go. Jenn Wirth had a contested corner three that never hit the rim and we went to overtime.
The entire overtime was a foul fest, some reasonable, some not. Townsend fouled out of the game with 2:30 to go. An outrageous number of free throws were shot. Eventually, Stanford got a huge steal and layup from Hull to go up by five with 90 seconds to go and that pretty much ended the game. Lexie Hull, who helped lead Central Valley High School to a couple state championships, finished with 20 points and eight rebounds. The teams combined for 51 fouls and 59 free throw attempts in the game.
Townsend led the Zags with a career-high 18 points. Kempton and Truong had 12 and Loera added 10. Jenn Wirth was 0-for-11 from the field in a game she would probably like to forget.
The Bulldogs are back in action on Friday night at home against cross-town rival Eastern Washington before heading to the Gulf Coast Showcase in Florida.