Watching Gonzaga in the championship game of the men’s NCAA Tournament last week is something Laura Stockton won’t forget.
The point guard for GU’s women’s basketball team joined her father, Hall of Famer John Stockton, in Glendale, Arizona, to watch the Zags fight through the Final Four. Although the Zags fell short of bringing home a title, their journey through the tournament became a source of inspiration for the women’s team.
“I loved watching them and how good they were this year,” Stockton said. “It was so inspiring.”
While in Glendale, Stockton said she received a few text messages from her coaches telling her that they were happy she was there to witness the Final Four in person and to feel what it’s like to be in that kind of setting.
“They were like, ‘So glad you’re there,’ and like, ‘Let’s do this next year. Let’s get there. Let’s be this good,’” Stockton said.
The Gonzaga women earned an automatic bid this year to the NCAA Tournament after taking home the West Coast Conference championship trophy, but their trip through the tournament ended early when they lost in the first round to Oklahoma. The women’s team has never made it to the Final Four, reaching the Elite Eight one time, in 2011.
Stockton said the men’s run in the Final Four has become a topic of discussion since the women’s team started workouts last week. She said her coaches and teammates have used the men’s historic season to encourage the women to follow suit and defy the odds set against them so that they can finally have their own historical season for Spokane to be proud of.
“They (the men’s team) did a lot of things that people said Gonzaga couldn’t do,” Stockton said. “They were so successful … they got the recipe, so I’ve got to figure it out.”
GU center Emma Wolfram said the men’s runner-up finish in the Big Dance did more than just inspire the women to break through to the Final Four next year, they reminded the women how special it is to be a Zag – especially inside the Kennel.
Wolfram said she and Elle Tinkle, who played her final season for Gonzaga this year, went to Scotty’s Doghouse near campus to watch the championship game. Wolfram said the final score didn’t change how proud she was of her friends on the men’s team and how fortunate she and Tinkle felt that day of being part of Gonzaga’s basketball programs.
“I’m so proud to be a Zag,” Wolfram said. “Obviously, you want to end with a win, but either way they made history.”
Other members of this year’s women’s team went to social media to express how happy they were for the men’s success this year.
Immediately after the game, Tinkle wrote on Twitter, “So proud to be a Zag. Thanks @ZagMBB for an unforgettable season.”
Makenlee Williams chimed in, saying in all capital letters that she was proud to be a Zag.
“We feel connected,” Stockton said. “There is a lot of pride that we feel for getting to be a part of it … we were just all so excited.”