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Gonzaga faces tough test of stopping Stanford’s Brittany McPhee

UPDATED: Thu., March 15, 2018, 5:28 p.m.

Stanford’s Brittany McPhee  moves past Washington’s Mackenzie Wieburg during a  Feb. 23 game in Seattle. (Elaine Thompson / AP)
Stanford’s Brittany McPhee moves past Washington’s Mackenzie Wieburg during a Feb. 23 game in Seattle. (Elaine Thompson / AP)

STANFORD, Calif. – Brittany McPhee could have been a model.

Discovered in middle school, she soon earned a photo spread in Teen Vogue. At 16, she found herself in China, a finalist in an international competition that would have sent her to across the world.

But McPhee is a tomboy at heart. She’d rather be in sneakers than stilettos, driving the lane instead of strutting down the runway.

And unless Gonzaga do something about it, McPhee will be in her comfort zone on Saturday afternoon in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, willing her Stanford teammates to another big win.

“She’s tough,” GU coach Lisa Fortier said.

And talented. McPhee is the hard-driving heart of this Cardinal team, which struggled during her early-season foot injury but now is playing its best ball of the season.

A third-team All-American and first-team All-Pac-12, McPhee leads the Cardinal in scoring (17 ppg) and toughness.

In a recent Pac-12 regular-season game at eventual regular-season champion Oregon, Stanford trailed by nine at the half before McPhee unleashed herself on the Ducks.

“Britt was just not going to let her team lose,” Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said.

McPhee hit 13 of 18 second-half shots, scoring a career-high 31 points in the half to lead the Cardinal to a stirring 78-65 win.

“That kid is fearless,” said Oregon coach Kelly Graves, who tried multiple defenses to slow down McPhee.

“It’s funny, we actually called that at halftime,” Graves said. “We said No. 12 is going to come out, because she didn’t do much in the first half, and we figured she was going to do what she did.”

You get the feeling that McPhee can do anything she wants, on or off the court.

Consider the bloodlines. McPhee and her fraternal twin, Jordan, a guard at Seattle Pacific, are the daughters of Alice, who played at Eastern Washington and professionally in Australia.

Their father, Bryce, played at Gonzaga with John Stockton, and their uncle Jim is GU’s No. 2 career scorer.

She’s also driven – enough to travel across the state to Spokane for AAU practices under coach Steve Kleef.

“She has such a gentle demeanor off the court, but she’ll knock your teeth in,” Kleef recently told USA Today.

“She’s the hardest worker I’ve ever coached,” Kleef added. “Other kids would go home after practice. She’d shoot for a couple of hours.”

The work paid off with an incredible career at Mount Rainier High School, where she was a three-time state Gatorade Player of the Year from 2012-14, and a Parade All-American as a senior.

Her 2,815 points are second in the Washington high school history, behind Jennifer Stinson of Davenport.

A five-star prospect with a 4.0 grade-point average, McPhee was a natural fit at Stanford, with its 32 NCAA appearances – 13 ending in the Final Four – and two national titles.

The last one came in 2017, as McPhee willed Cardinal to a 16-point comeback win against Notre Dame to reach the national semifinals.


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