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Monday, November 11, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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The last stretch against Syracuse was not the Zags’ best moment

Gonzaga’s Domantas Sabonis is surrounded by Syracuse defenders Tyler Roberson (21) and Tyler Lydon (20) in the second half on Friday, March 25, 2016, at the United Center in Chicago. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga’s Domantas Sabonis is surrounded by Syracuse defenders Tyler Roberson (21) and Tyler Lydon (20) in the second half on Friday, March 25, 2016, at the United Center in Chicago. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • Remember, just a single team has the ultimate one shining moment. Read on.

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• Sixty-eight teams enter the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. Only one ends its season with a win. Gonzaga accepted its season-ending defeat last night in a manner that seemed a bit deflating. Leading late, the Zags’ offense stalled under pressure and Syracuse pulled out a 63-60 win to advance to the Elite Eight. Funny, it wasn’t the vaunted Syracuse zone that allowed the Orange to rally from a nine-point deficit in the final 6 minutes. No, it was their more extended pressure which keyed a 15-3 run to end the game. That and the Zags inability to grab an offensive rebound late. Put them together and you have a tough way to end a season, losing a game you could have won and probably should have. But all season-ending losses are tough, whenever and wherever they come. Gonzaga got the misses it needed down the stretch, even without WCC defensive player of the year Eric McClellan, who didn’t play at all with the game on the line, on the floor. But the Bulldogs didn’t get the stops, mainly because they gave up six offensive rebounds in the final 138 seconds. Most of those looked to be due to fatigue, as Kyle Witljer and Domantas Sabonis, the duo that carried the Zags to the lead but rarely sat, struggled to gather in 50/50 balls down the stretch. The Syracuse players played quicker in the final minutes and that was enough. Every time a big played needed to be made, the Orange made it. And the Bulldogs were left wondering once again. Why couldn’t they finish a tight game – a season-long problem? And when will the program break through to the last weekend of the tournament? That this year’s team was even in the discussion of that happening was something of a minor miracle, sure, but the door was open to get to at least the Elite Eight for a second consecutive year, an accomplishment rarely achieved outside the blue bloods of college hoop. But it wasn’t to be. The chance was fumbled away down the stretch. Twenty-eight wins are great. But last night that total is at least one less than Gonzaga wanted.

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• Gonzaga: Jim Meehan was in Chicago, of course, and has this game story. John Blanchette adds a column that looks toward the future. And Dan Pelle captures the moments with these photographs. ... There are stories from around the Northwest and from upstate New York as well we can pass along.

• WSU: The Cougars will be back at it today for spring practice and you can prepare by reading Jacob Thorpe’s story on what Mike Leach is trying to accomplish the next couple weeks. ... Oregon not only is the Pac-12’s lone representative in the Elite Eight, it is the West Coast standard bearer as well. The matchup with Lon Kruger is something Dana Altman has always tried to avoid. ... Stanford hired a new basketball coach yesterday. ... The UW women are still alive in the NCAA tournament. ... Back to football, we have the mailbag from ESPN.com’s Pac-12 blog.

• Idaho: The Vandals opened spring practice yesterday and Sean Kramer was there. UI is getting ready for its final two seasons in the Sun Belt Conference.

• Chiefs: The WHL playoffs started last night and Spokane fell in Victoria, 5-3. ... Everett got past Portland in their opener.

• Preps: A Ferris High assistant baseball coach is battling cancer, so the entire team decided to show their solidarity. Tom Clouse has the story as well as the baseball season preview.

• Seahawks: Is the offensive line as big a mess as it looks from the outside?

• Mariners: Felix Hernandez pitched well, but the M’s needed a couple of late home runs to get past Chicago 5-4 yesterday. ... With spring training winding down, some decisions are looming for the M’s.

• Sounders: Though there is no match this weekend, the shorthanded Sounders have to prepare for a busy week coming up.

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• A busy day looms for me. I hope for you as well. Unless you just want to spend a lazy Saturday. Good luck with that. Until later ...




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

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