GU women top BYU 77-60, clinch WCC title
Sharing just wasn’t something Katelan Redmon was prepared to do. Make no mistake, though – Redmon and the Bulldogs showed they were more than prepared to compete.
It was the final West Coast Conference regular-season contest for the No. 25 Gonzaga women’s basketball team on Saturday afternoon. In fighting for outright ownership of the title they had won for the previous seven years against a team that defeated them by 30 points earlier this month, the Bulldogs scored a 77-60 win over Brigham Young to capture their eighth consecutive WCC championship in front of a sold-out crowd of 6,000 at the McCarthey Athletic Center.
With the win, Gonzaga earned the top seed in the WCC tournament in Las Vegas next week – which gives the Zags an automatic berth into the semifinals. A different result, and the Cougars and Bulldogs would have shared the title, and BYU would have received the No. 1 seed.
“It’s so much sweeter – no one wants to share a title,” said Redmon, who led all players with 28 points on 12-of-20 shooting from the field. “Coach kept telling us, ‘Be selfish – go out there, be greedy, and get the title for yourselves.’”
Following the win, head coach Kelly Graves spoke to the crowd – thanking them for creating an atmosphere for women’s basketball he felt was unparalled around the country, and honoring his five seniors: Redmon, leading scorer and rebounder Kayla Standish, spark plug Kelly Bowen, seldom-used but highly respected Shannon Reader and walk-on Molly Anderson.
In the final minute of the game, all five seniors shared a rare moment in which they all checked into the game at the same time.
“It was a really neat moment,” Redmon said. “For some reason, I ended up at the point guard and I’m looking around and thought, ‘Holy cow, all five of us seniors are in here right now.’ It was just a really cool feeling to have all of us out there and just be a part of those last few seconds.”
The senior class for the Zags has put together a 112-19 record at Gonzaga. Only four other senior classes around the nation have more than 111 wins – No. 1 Baylor, No. 2 Stanford, No. 4 Connecticut and No. 7 Duke.
“John Wooden, in his pyramid of success, at the top is that competitive greatness,” Graves said. “Today was our biggest challenge against our nearest challenger and (we) did it. We didn’t play a perfect basketball game – neither did they – but we found it within ourselves to make the plays when we needed to and just played biggest in the biggest moments.”
Most of those moments came in the second half, when the Bulldogs (25-4, 14-2 WCC) used a 16-0 run to separate themselves from a 32-31 lead over the Cougars (24-6, 12-4) early in the half.
“(That run was) huge,” Graves said. “(BYU is) obviously a great team and they deserve to be in the NCAA tournament with us. We should be a two-team league, there’s no question about that. They are so good inside and the fact that we outscored them 42-16 in the paint is terrific.”
The run began with a lay-in by Redmon, and continued when Standish – who scored six of her 15 points during the stretch – followed up with a lay-in off a pass from junior point guard Taelor Karr.
Standish scored all of her points in the second half after getting into foul trouble early in the opening half. Karr, who finished with 11 points as the only other Zag with double-digit points, was also instrumental in the scoring run.
By the time BYU’s Haley Steed nailed a 3-pointer to end the Cougars’ scoring drought and the 13-minute mark approached, Gonzaga led 51-34.
The Cougars pressed on, and went on a 15-5 run to cut Gonzaga’s lead to 56-49 with just more than 8 minutes to play. The Zags responded with another scoring run – 10-0 – and regained a 17-point lead to squash BYU’s hopes of a share of the title in their first season playing in the WCC.
“I love the fact that Katelan carried us in that first half – she was phenomenal,” Graves said. “When Kayla got in foul trouble, she stepped up. Then I was really proud of Kayla in the second half, how she came in and demanded the ball and … she obviously set the tone. A lot of players played well tonight and we needed them to.
“Obviously, I’m very, very excited. They’re all special every time you win a championship, but I would rate this right at the top, just because it was so hard-fought. We’ve had more challenges this year than we’ve ever had. This is the best the conference has been since I’ve been here. So you put all that together and it makes it so rewarding.”