Sometimes in sports two teams battle so evenly that no one who played or watched the game will ever forget that they were part of it.
The Gonzaga women’s basketball team locked horns with San Francisco on Saturday in a game that will live in GU lore as the Bulldogs prevailed 91-84 after four overtime periods. It was the longest game played at any women’s collegiate level this season.
“I think I will remember this one for a long time,” coach Lisa Fortier said. “It’s not about who was hot or not, it was about finding a way to come out on top. I was just trying to stay calm.”
The sellout crowd at the McCarthey Athletic Center roared and moaned as the game seemed as if it were won and lost multiple times. The teams traded the lead 21 times before freshman Emma Stach hit an open 3-pointer with 1:51 left in the fourth overtime to seal the victory.
“I was open. I didn’t even think about it,” said the guard from Buchholz, Germany. “I shot it and it was amazing when it went in. These are the moments you only get in sports.”
Those moments came in waves. With her team down a point with 30 seconds left in regulation, Shaniqua Nilles (West Valley) nailed a 3-pointer to give Gonzaga a 61-59 lead.
Fouled with 8 seconds left, Nilles hit only one of two free throws. Given a chance, San Francisco’s Anna Seilund then hit a 3-pointer with 1 second to play to send the game to its first overtime.
After an evenly-played first extra period, senior wing Lindsay Sherbert hit a layup with 8 seconds remaining in the second overtime to tie the score at 70.
In the third extra period, Gonzaga led 78-75 and the players thought they had the game won until San Francisco’s Aundrea Gordon hit a 3-pointer with 8 seconds left to send the game into the fourth overtime.
“It was crazy,” said junior guard Elle Tinkle, who scored 17 points and had 11 rebounds. “All the credit goes to San Francisco. They had three players out … and they just kept battling.”
The Dons’ Taj Winston was taken away by ambulance in the second half after she ran full speed into a screen set by GU 6-foot-5 center Shelby Cheslek. Winston’s condition was not immediately available.
“You could see they wanted to win this for (Winston)”, Nilles said. “I was trying not to cry. I hope we get news soon that she’s alright.”
Keani Albanez led the Zags (19-4, 12-0) with 20 points. Senior Sunny Greinacher scored 19 and had seven rebounds. Stach had seven of her 11 points in the fourth overtime, which is the first time since 1978 that any Gonzaga team, men’s or women’s, went to four extra periods.
The Dons (14-10, 5-8) had five players score in double figures, led by the 19 points of Taylor Proctor. She led all scorers with 13 points in the first half after which Gonzaga led 31-30.
Gonzaga came one rebound shy of tying its record in the longest basketball game played at the MAC and longest game played in the WCC. The Zags won the battle of the boards 67-41. Of those, 30 of Gonzaga’s boards came on the offensive end.
“We were everywhere on the glass,” Tinkle said. “If your shots were not going in, it seemed like every possession we had multiple offensive rebounds.”
Gonzaga shot 37.2 percent from the floor but only 60.7 percent from the free-throw line, which is about 17 percent below its season average. Gonzaga outscored the Dons 28-12 in second-chance points.
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