The No. 22 Gonzaga women’s basketball team found itself in a track meet with upset-minded Pacific but somehow found enough points Saturday to win 81-77 at McCarthey Athletic Center.
Having cut down the nets Thursday night after clinching its 10th straight West Coast Conference title, coach Kelly Graves said he had to focus his team on playing the tough Tigers team with the additional distraction of senior night.
“After cutting the nets, it’s always human nature to relax,” Graves said. “But I addressed it yesterday and today. We wanted to go undefeated at home and we wanted to go into the tournament by making a statement.”
All three seniors, Jazmine Redmon, Haiden Palmer and Stephanie Golden, were solid, but Gonzaga’s youth carried the day as junior Sunny Greinacher scored 24 points and grabbed seven rebounds to lead the Bulldogs (26-4, 16-2).
“We already had our championship celebration,” Greinacher said. “This was about winning our last home game. We played really tough. That’s’ what it came down to in the end.”
Junior Lindsay Sherbert also shook off a recent shooting slump and scored 18 points to go with six rebounds.
Several runs by the Tigers (17-11, 12-6) cut the lead to five points on three occasions with under a minute to play.
But Redmon hit two free throws and Greinacher hit four to clinch the victory. Pacific guard Kiki Moore scored a layup at the buzzer for her 33rd point and the final margin.
“We want to have these tough-grind-it-out kind of wins,” said Palmer, who scored 17 points and grabbed eight rebounds. “They are a physical, athletic team that makes you work for everything.”
The Gonzaga offense often starts fast when Palmer hits her first shot. This day was no different as she hit a 3 for her first points to give the Bulldogs the lead at 5-2.
The Bulldogs kept pounding the ball inside to Greinacher, Golden, and Shelby Cheslek to counter the fast-paced scoring of Pacific’s Moore and Hailie Eackles, who finished with 20 points and six rebounds.
Graves said Pacific played four guards to create a match-up problem for the Bulldogs. He countered by forcing the ball into his taller players in the paint.
“Something had to give. We had the advantage inside,” he said. “It was one of those nights.”