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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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You get a win, you get a win and you get a win

Kyle Dranginis, left, and GU outrebounded and significantly outscored the Toreros in the paint on Thursday. (Colin Mulvany)
Kyle Dranginis, left, and GU outrebounded and significantly outscored the Toreros in the paint on Thursday. (Colin Mulvany)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • It was a win-win-win-win Thursday night around here. At least it was for the men's college basketball teams. Read on.

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• Yep, Gonzaga won, even if the first 15 minutes or so were harder than Gonzaga fans would have liked. And Whitworth had little trouble in the first round of the Northwest Conference postseason tournament. Idaho took a while, but then the Vandals found a way to get past Montana in double overtime. And the UI win made Thursday night a win-win for Eastern Washington. The Eagles blew out Montana State in the second half and then leapfrogged the Griz into a tie for first in the Big Sky Conference with idle Sacramento State. There are four contenders for the top spot – and postseason tournament host – in the Sky, Eastern, Sacramento, Montana and Northern Arizona, which won at North Dakota last night. All except Montana have three games left. The Griz play at Eastern on Saturday afternoon then travel to Montana State next Saturday. Sacramento State plays at Portland State on Saturday night, then travel to Southern Utah and Northern Arizona next week. The Lumberjacks are at Northern Colorado on Saturday then host Portland State and Sacramento next week. The Eagles? They hold senior day Saturday then hit the road to Idaho State and Weber State in an attempt to win the crown. It won't be easy. But it will be exciting. And that's a win-win for every fan.

• For years Mariner fans waited for Michael Saunders to break through. The left-handed hitting outfielder seemed to be a star in waiting, with only a string of nagging injuries keeping Saunders from reaching his potential. Except he never really did. Oh, Saunders had flurries, stretches of great play that only made the anticipation worse. Finally, though, the M's couldn't wait any longer, sending Saunders to Toronto for J.A. Happ, a left-handed pitcher who should be in their starting rotation. The thought was maybe the new venue would allow Saunders to start over and realize his potential. Well, maybe. But it will have to wait. Again. Saunders was working in the outfield in spring training yesterday, stepped on a sprinkler and injured his knee. He will be out until around the all-star break. I would like to write I was surprised, but I can't. Disappointed, saddened, sure. But not surprised. Some players are just followed around by a dark cloud. It's not fun, but it happens. Hopefully this latest setback won't derail Saunders' time with the Blue Jays. Hopefully he'll come back and play well, star even. But I wouldn't hold my breath.

•••

• WSU: Kind of quiet on the Pullman front, with Jacob Thorpe offering a look back at the win over USC and a morning post with links. ... The Pac-12 could be feeling blue come Selection Sunday. ... Former WSU great Jason McEndoo has packed up the family and will be leaving Bozeman for Stillwater, Oklahoma. McEndoo, the long-time offensive line coach at Montana State, has accepted a position at OSU.

• Gonzaga: The matchup with USD was being played at a snail's pace last night until Eric McClellan entered with about five minutes left in the first. McClellan's energy ramped up the Zags on both ends. They went on to finish the half on a 9-0 run and blew out the Toreros in the second, winning 59-39. Jim Meehan has the game story and a blog post on the Zags' 17th conference win. He'll be back today with another post on the game. ... Colin Mulvany was also in McCarthey and has this photo report. ... Around the WCC, Saint Mary's had little trouble with USF, Santa Clara fell again, this time to Pacific, and BYU's Tyler Haws became the Cougars' all-time career leading scorer in a win over Portland.

• EWU: The 92-68 victory over Montana State lifted Eastern into a tie for first in the Big Sky and set up an even bigger-than-usual showdown with Montana on Saturday. Jim Allen has the game story from Cheney. ... Elsewhere in the Big Sky, Northern Arizona got past a tough road test, defeating North Dakota while Northern Colorado handled Southern Utah. ... Michael Roos, the Eastern alum who is responsible for the red turf on Roos Field, has decided to retire after a 10-year NFL career. ...The Eastern women saw their winning streak snapped in Bozeman.

• Idaho: The Vandals rallied late to send the game into overtime last night, though they had chances to win in regulation and the first extra period. But the third time was a charm, as Connor Hill and company defeating the Griz, 72-71. Sean Kramer has the game story, which also serves as a Big Sky roundup. ... Former Vandal star Orlando Lightfoot will be part of this year's Idaho Athletic Hall of Fame class.

• Whitworth: The Pirates had little trouble with Willamette, winning 89-64. Tom Clouse was in the Fieldhouse and has the game story. ... The Pirate women saw their season end with a 71-64 loss at Puget Sound.

• Shock: The AFL is undergoing some realignment but it doesn't affect Spokane.

• Chiefs: It was quiet in Spokane yesterday but we found stories on Tri-City and Everett.

• Preps: Idaho held some boys' basketball playoff games. Greg Lee was at Coeur d'Alene's win over Lake City last night and has this game story.

• Seahawks: The Hawks missed out on a free-agent defensive lineman who visited.

• Mariners: Though Lloyd McClendon is trying to stamp out any sense of entitlement as it pertains to winning, the M's feel confident. Especially Felix Hernandez, who threw for the first time this spring. ... Remember our platoon piece from yesterday? Well, McClendon doesn't see how both shortstop candidates can make the team, baring injury. And Logan Morrison has basically been handed the first-base job. ... Another oft-injured Mariner, Franklin Gutierrez is just trying to hang on to baseball job somewhere.

• Sounders: Former Sounder goalkeeper Kasey Keller is among the nominees for the National Soccer Hall of Fame. ... Seattle will end its preseason tournament in Tucson with a rematch. ... Who has performed well thus far? Sigi Schmid knows. ... He has also picked his third goalkeeper.

•••

• The final day of the workweek and my final day on 700 ESPN – this week. We will be joining Rick Lukens and Keith Osso between 3 and 6 p.m., as per usual. You can listen here. Until then ...



Vince Grippi
Vince Grippi is a freelance local sports blogger for spokesman.com. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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