LAS VEGAS (AP) — Zykera Rice’s scoop layup just before the buzzer lifted No. 12 Gonzaga to a 78-77 thrilling double-overtime win over Saint Mary’s on Monday in the West Coast Conference tournament semifinals.
The win came at a cost as the Zags lost two players to leg injuries. Laura Stockton went down early in the third quarter and Jill Townsend in the second overtime. Stockton was hurt underneath the basket and the Gonzaga training staff came out to comfort her and help her off the court to the locker room a few minutes later. She was putting no weight on the injured leg. Her father, Hall of Famer John Stockton and his wife Nada, went to the back minutes later to be with their daughter. The senior guard came back out with 4:27 left in the fourth quarter to support her team on crutches with a huge black brace on her left leg.
Townsend’s left leg buckled as she tried to help on defense early in the second overtime. She was down on the court for a few minutes before they carried her off the court to the locker room with an air cast on the injury.
Gonzaga still found a way to rally without their two guards.
Sam Simmons gave Saint Mary’s (20-11) a 77-76 lead when she hit a basket with 14 seconds left. Gonzaga worked the clock down and Rice, sporting blue dyed hair, drove across the lane hitting the scoop shot. She finished with 21 points to lead the Zags (28-3), who will play the winner of BYU and Pepperdine for the title on Tuesday. Townsend had 19 before getting hurt.
Madeline Holland scored 20 points to lead Saint Mary’s, which had a chance to win at the end of regulation and in overtime, but Gonzaga got stops both times.
Gonzaga was rusty at the start after having a nine-day layoff since its last game. This was the first year that the WCC gave the top-two teams double byes to the semifinals. In the past the one and two seeds would play in the quarterfinals. It was done to help protect the top teams strength of schedule as far as NCAA Tournament seeding goes. In previous seasons Gonzaga would play its first game on Friday, but now the Zags didn’t open until Monday.
Saint Mary’s scored the first seven points of the game and Gonzaga coach Lisa Fortier called a timeout to try and settle her team. The Zags missed their first six shots before Wright scored the team’s first basket nearly four minutes into the game. Saint Mary’s was up six before Stockton went coast-to-coast hitting a floater in the lane just before the buzzer to get the Zags within 18-14 after one quarter.
The play brought the pro-Gonzaga crowd to its feet. The lead ballooned to 27-16 before the Zags cut it to 32-28 at the half.