Sports


Grays fingerprints all over this one

Junior guard leads Gonzaga’s victory

LAS VEGAS – His right

elbow was Saran wrapped

in ice, where before a sleeve

of white tape had buttressed the

joint bruised by a crash to the

floor both spectacular and

horrifying.

The tips of the nails on the

middle and ring fingers of his

right hand looked as if they’d been

dinner for a passing wolverwine,

and the blood from them spotted

both his jersey and his shorts.

Either that went undetected by

officials as the game went on – by

rule, it requires fresh laundry – or

they simply shrugged and decided

they could live with any gore

short of a Tarantino movie.

In other words, Steven Gray

was a mess.

And he may never have looked

so good.

A thousand theories get floated

each and every Gonzaga

basketball season, most of them

crackpot and virtually all of them

such generalizations that they

leak value before they’re finished

being uttered. One that may have

some legs suggests that while

Matt Bouldin is unquestionably

the Bulldogs’ marquee player and

that Zags have never really had

someone like Elias Harris, they go

as the understated Gray goes – at

least on those nights when the

line between winning and losing

is thinnest.

A night such as Sunday, when

the Zags worked Loyola

Marymount 77-62 to advance to

the championship game of the

West Coast Conference

Tournament for the 13th straight

year – 15th in the last 16.

A night Gonzaga coach Mark

Few will remember for “one of

the best performances I have ever

seen (from) one of our players.”

The numbers were almost the

least of it and they were

sensational: 18 points, seven

assists, six rebounds and two

steals in 31 minutes filled with

stretches you might have

expected him to ease off the

accelerator because he had the

baggage of a foul too many.

His fingerprints – both bare

and bloody – were all over this

game, which carried some drama

simply because the Lions are

young, gifted and hungry, had

been been the last time to beat

Gonzaga and presented matchup

problems for the Zags that no

other WCC team quite duplicated.

Then again, sometimes it’s

forgotten the kind of matchup

— Jump from page 1 to page 3 —

problem a player like Gray

poses for Gonzaga’s

opponents.

“I was talking with a pro

scout about him last night,”

said Max Good, the crusty

LMU coach who looks like

a senior version of the

“Avatar” villain, Col.

Quartich. “I said of all their

guys, I’m not so sure he’s

about as good a prospect

(as they have). Probably got

to tighten his handle up,

but he’s an explosive

athlete.”

There were scads of

examples this night, all of

them overshadowed by the

frightening sequence

midway through the first

half when Gray bit on a

pump fake by Drew Viney,

catching his hip on the

LMU player’s shoulder and

flipping several feet in the

air. He landed flush on his

right side directly in front

of Few, who was “certain

he’d broken his elbow.”

———————- ———————-

This was at the 9:45 mark,

and as trainer Jennifer

Nyland taped him up near

the bench, Gray stood

motionless with his arm

hanging at his side –

anything but the picture of

hope.

At 8:01, he checked back

into the game.

At 8:00, he took an

inbounds pass from

Bouldin and scored

uncontested, the Lions

apparently deked into

thinking he was through,

too.

There are different ways

to illuminate how much

Gray means to the Zags.

One is to point out that in

the five games they’ve lost,

Gray has shot an aggregate

14 of 55 and scored less

than 10 points a game.

Naturally, he hasn’t been

lights out in all the wins,

either, but he was certainly

a monster in Maui and

came up big in the

Oklahoma-Illinois parlay

around New Year’s, as well

as the first showdown with

———————- ———————-

Saint Mary’s.

Few, not surprisingly,

feels his junior guard has

not fulfilled his destiny.

“I think it’s time for him

to start stepping up and

realizing (his potential),”

Few said. “He’s always

been so laid back. God gave

him a gift. Steve’s had a

really good year for us in

how he’s defended and

taken big shots when

they’re there and made

them, and big free throws.

But there’s still some more

we can get and he can get.”

He will get it all this

weekend.

“There’s not many

opportunities where you

can say if we win these next

two games, we’re

champions,” Gray said.

“That’s motivation enough

to come out and play as

hard as you can for the time

you’re in, because there’s

not that many left. And it’s

really special.”

As goals go, it’s pretty

black and white. Colored

with shades of Gray.



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