There was a big sigh of relief at the McCarthey Athletic Center on Thursday night when the Gonzaga University women’s basketball team grabbed its first win in the West Coast Conference after falling twice the week before.
Satisfied fans piled out of the arena with smiles on their faces and – no doubt – a little more hope for this season than they had on Wednesday.
But a few, fairly tall fans stuck around to congratulate and hug their favorite Bulldog. And Elle Tinkle was right there to greet them with open arms.
The entire Tinkle family – Elle’s parents, Oregon State basketball coach Wayne and former Montana basketball player Lisa, her brother Tres, who plays for his dad at Oregon State, and Elle’s sister Joslyn, a former WNBA player for the Seattle Storm – all made it to GU’s home court to watch Elle and the Zags topple San Francisco 61-46.
“We were trying to figure out the last time all four of them had been at my game and it was when I played my sister my freshman year,” Elle said. That was in December 2012 when Gonzaga hosted Stanford in Spokane.
The family gathering at Gonzaga was long overdue and it was all thanks to what seemed to be a perfect schedule in games this week. Wayne found some extra time between OSU’s game against Washington State at the Spokane Arena on Wednesday and their following matchup against the Washington Huskies in Seattle on Saturday to visit Elle at Gonzaga on Thursday.
“It was really neat how the schedule worked out this way,” Wayne said. “In the past, I’ve been able to sneak over for an exhibition game, maybe a preseason game, and that’s about it. But this year, this was the first time I got to see them play live. It means a lot. As close as our family is and as much as we support each other, it was neat to be here for her and the team.”
Wayne said his next visit to Gonzaga is still up in the air. He might head back to Spokane for senior night on Feb. 22 when the Zags face San Diego. That would mean flying from Stanford, California, to Spokane after OSU plays the Cardinal on Feb. 21 and flying back to Berkeley, California, in time to meet the Golden Bears on Feb. 23.
Either way, Wayne said he was thrilled about being able to see his daughter play at least one conference game as a senior, something he hadn’t expected prior to the schedule release.
Wayne got one more surprise this week when Elle was selected as one of 30 national candidates for the 2016-2017 Senior CLASS (Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School) Award in collegiate basketball.
To be eligible for the award, an NCAA Division I senior must exemplify notable achievements in the “four C’s” – community, classroom, character and competition.
Elle fills all those boxes. The fifth-year senior has been named to the Dean’s List and the President’s List throughout her time at Gonzaga. She balances her time between logging hours at the hospital, practicing on the GU court and maintaining a 3.5 GPA ahead of graduating with a nursing degree this year.
“It’s special whenever you get that recognition that’s not just basketball,” the senior guard said. “That’s a huge other aspect to this whole student-athlete thing we do and I pride myself a lot on what I’m able to accomplish in the classroom.”
The 30-player group will be narrowed down to 10 athletes next month. Those 10 names will be placed on a ballot so media members, coaches and fans across the country can vote for a winner.
The winner of the award will be announce in March during the NCAA Women’s Final Four.