Gonzaga women’s basketball coach Lisa Fortier casually chatted with fans before Numerica FanFest and took a seat at the scorer’s table for the team’s scrimmage.
She took cellphone video of a team huddle during a break between quarters as assistants handled coaching duties for the Blue and White squads in front of 1,289 Saturday at the McCarthey Athletic Center.
“It’s my favorite day of the year,” GU’s fifth-year head coach said with a smile.
Fortier still made time to jot down 1 1/2 pages of notes during the scrimmage, which ended in an 18-all tie, thanks to senior point guard Laura Stockton’s string of clutch baskets for the White in the second half.
“It hurts,” said senior forward Zykera Rice, who had five points and three rebounds for the Blue. “I was ready for another 4 minutes (the scrimmage format was four 4-minute quarters), but they told us we weren’t getting that.”
What the Bulldogs did get is numerous talking points for upcoming practices and a closer look at the scoring options following three-time All-West Coast Conference first-teamer Jill Barta’s departure after her junior season.
“We’re a little rusty, that’s why it’s nice to do this,” said Stockton, who scored eight of the White’s last 10 points, including a third-quarter buzzer-beater and a scoop layup with 15 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. “You can get the jitters out and figure out what we need to work on.”
Barta, the West Coast Conference Player of the Year last season, exited at No. 7 on the program’s career scoring list. The Zags will lean on Rice, the team’s top percentage shooter last season while averaging 11.7 points, and others to pick up the scoring slack.
Senior wing Chandler Smith will be one of those options. She had eight points, scoring inside and on midrange jumpers, to help the Blue build a 16-6 lead late in the second quarter. Earlier, Smith nailed 16 3-pointers in 1 minute to edge sophomore guard Louise Forsyth in the 3-point contest.
“I think we have more than enough firepower,” Rice said. “The great thing about basketball is it’s a team sport. All of us together can definitely pull our weight and fill that gap.”
The Bulldogs also should generate points in transition with mobile posts and savvy point guards Stockton and junior Jessie Loera. The Blue capitalized on turnovers – once scoring in transition after White missed a free throw – to construct a double-digit lead.
Fortier said she believes the team has inside threats and capable perimeter shooters, which should create space at the offensive end.
“We have veteran decision-makers once we get the group all together and they’re going to make good choices,” said Fortier, whose team opens the regular season against Montana on Nov. 7.
“We have a lot of versatility in the guard spots, a lot of ball-handlers and people who can score in a variety of ways. I love how Zykera has been playing. She’s been extremely aggressive. I’d like some of our other post players to take a step in that direction.
“We have so much to work on, but they’re doing some good things. We haven’t had a day where I’ve come in and thought, “Oh, we’re in for it.’ ”
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