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Gonzaga women sneak past EWU on Elle Tinkle’s buzzer-beater

It fell.

Gonzaga guard Elle Tinkle doesn’t remember the shot. She just knows she grabbed a rebound and was draped by defenders when she chucked the ball at the backboard.

The buzzer sounded as the ball exited the net and the Gonzaga women’s basketball team somehow found a way Wednesday night to beat rival Eastern Washington 61-60 at Reese Court in Cheney.

“I knew we only had a couple seconds,” Tinkle said. “I knew I had to be there for the rebound. I think I might have blacked out right then.”

Tinkle’s first buzzer-beater ended the Eagles’ furious comeback that found them leading 60-59 with 85 seconds left after freshman Delaney Hodgins hit a jumper.

Gonzaga (4-2) turned the ball over twice and all Eastern had to do was inbound the ball with 7 seconds left and the game was done. But Tinkle attacked the inbound pass and forced a jump ball that gave Gonzaga one last shot with 5 seconds left.

Senior Sunny Greinacher, who led all scorers with 22 points, tried a shot that missed. Tinkle came down with the rebound and hit the winner, which was reviewed by officials before it became history.

“It’s on me,” dejected Eastern coach Wendy Schuller said. “I had one timeout left. I should have used it to get the ball inbounds. It’s a big one and it’s going to sting for a long time.”

Tinkle’s heroics came in her first start. She was playing for the injured Lindsay Sherbert, who hurt a knee in the loss last week to Iowa and remains out indefinitely.

“It wasn’t pretty by any means,” Tinkle said. “But we’ll take it after two tough losses. The win feels great.”

Gonzaga coach Lisa Fortier’s expression carried the frustration of a night in which the Eagles (3-3) forced her players into 19 turnovers.

“They did a good job with their game plan,” Fortier said of the Eagles. “I’m really proud of our girls. We didn’t play very well but we were still able to gut out a win.”

The drama ended a game where the teams came out cold with both offenses struggling to find anything in front of a crowd of 1,877 of mostly Gonzaga partisans.

Gonzaga struggled to move the ball, while Eastern Washington couldn’t find answers for the Zags’ length in the front court.

GU outrebounded Eastern 44-29 with senior center Shelby Cheslek grabbing 14 boards and Greinacher 12.

Schuller said her team would have won handily if her shooters could have hit a bucket. The team shot only 32.7 percent from the field, including 1 of 12 on 3-pointers.

Despite the missed shots, Eastern players started finding points inside and at the foul line. GU twice had 10-point leads in the second half, but the Eagles scratched back and took the lead twice in the last 2 minutes.

“I’m disappointed because our kids fought so hard,” Schuller said. “I thought our kids played their hearts out.”

Junior forward Hayley Hodgins led the Eagles with 17 points. But Fortier put 6-foot-2 Tinkle on 5-6 guard Lexie Nelson. That matchup held Nelson to 11 points, about seven less than her average.

“It’s frustrating,” Hodgins said. “We knew we could play with them. It just came down to one shot, honestly. Any other day, it would have been a different outcome.”

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