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Gonzaga women dominate SWABS awards

It comes as no surprise, when giving out Inland Northwest Sportswriters and Broadcasters’ annual awards, that 2011 was the year of Gonzaga University women’s basketball.

After reaching the Elite Eight of the NCAA Division I national tournament the Bulldogs take home three of five SWABs awards.

They garnered Amateur Female Athlete, Coach and Team of the Year awards in balloting conducted by Eastern Washington and North Idaho media.

The announcement comes on the eve of the annual Junior Awards Luncheon Wednesday, 11:30 a.m., at the Spokane Convention Center.

Courtney Vandersloot, a major reason for GU’s success, was unanimous as Female Athlete of the Year after collecting numerous West Coast Conference and national honors. She was the Nancy Lieberman Award choice as the nation’s best point guard, Frances Pomeroy Naismith winner as top player no taller than 5-foot-8 and named to several All-America teams after becoming West Coast Conference Player of the Year for the third time.

Vandersloot averaged 19.2 points and 10.2 assists a game in becoming the first player nationally, man or woman, to compile 2,000 points and 1,000 assists during their careers.

The Bulldogs, winners of seven straight WCC championships, finished a school-record 31-5 and were the first 11th seed in the NCAA tournament to reach the Elite Eight.

Coach Kelly Graves is the architect of a program that has become recognized nationally.

Other senior award winners were Eastern Washington quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell, the Male Amateur Athlete of the Year, and the Spokane Chiefs’ Tyler Johnson the Professional Athlete of the Year.

Mitchell was All-American and won the Walter Payton Award as the top offensive player in the Football Championship Subdivision. He passed for a school-record 4,009 yards, giving him 8,012 in two seasons at EWU, and threw for 33 touchdowns on 316 completions in 503 attempts.

The popular Johnson, a Spokane Valley product, completed his career with the Chiefs by leading them in scoring last year. His 53 goals topped the Western Hockey League and he was one point shy, including assists, of the overall scoring title.

Wednesday’s Youth Awards Luncheon, hosted by the Spokane Regional Sports Commission and SWABs, will reveal the Junior girls and boys athletes, teams and coaches winners and the recipients of several special awards.