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Sports >  Gonzaga basketball

Freshman Jessie Loera has talent to excel at Gonzaga

whitneyo@spokesman.com

Gonzaga women’s head coach Lisa Fortier has said it again and again this season – each game is a new game and, most importantly, an opportunity to learn.

For freshman guard Jessie Loera, this season is all about learning from her older teammates and getting more comfortable on the college court.

“I think I’m fitting in just like Laura (Stockton), being her back-up, watching her, learning from her, what the program is and what to look for and how to fit in,” Loera said. “Just becoming more comfortable.”

In six games, Loera has scored 25 points, shooting 41 percent (9 of 22) from the field. During the Paradise Jam at the U.S. Virgin Islands in November, Loera scored a season-high 11 points against Winthrop and five points against No. 10 Florida State.

“She doesn’t look like the Jessie that she was two weeks ago, she looks like the Jessie she was in high school,” Fortier said.

Loera had an impressive ride as one of the nation’s top high school guards at Moses Lake. In her three-year career with the Chiefs, Loera scored 872 points, averaging 12.3 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 3.9 steals. She was named Columbia Basin Big Nine’s defensive player of the year in 2013 and 2014 and offensive player of the year in 2014.

Loera received offers from Washington State, Washington, Vanderbilt, Army West Point and, of course, the Bulldogs.

“I felt more of a connection with Gonzaga. The coaching staff was great, the team, the community,” Loera said. “I felt more of a connection here, so that’s why I chose Gonzaga.”

In just a month, the GU newbie has shown that she’s a force on the court. Along with her 25 points, she has dished out 10 assists, grabbed 10 rebounds and 4 steals.

“She’s starting to look really comfortable with what we’re doing and she’s finding her voice,” Fortier said. “She’s going to be a really important player for us.”

Fortier wins 50th game

Fortier earned her 50th career win on Saturday in Gonzaga’s 79-39 stomping of Presbyterian.

“I hope that I’m going to be coaching for a lot more of those,” Fortier said.

She moved to 50-24 in two seasons with the Zags to become the fastest coach in the team’s history to reach the 50-win milestone. Kelly Graves (2000-2014) had his 50th victory in his fourth season and Julie Holt (1989-1994) hit the 50-win mark in her fifth season at Gonzaga.

Fortier has had 29 wins at the McCarthey Athletic Center.

“The number is just a number,” Fortier said. “It’s a great honor for our coaching staff. They’ve done a good job.”

Series breakdown

The Bulldogs face local rival Washington State on Thursday.

Gonzaga is 7-18 all-time against the Cougars. The Zags have a losing record (4-5) in Spokane against the Cougs, with only one win out of three games at the McCarthey Athletic Center.

WSU is 4-0 against West Coast Conference teams this year, beating Loyola Marymount, Saint Mary’s, San Francisco and San Diego, in Pullman.

This is WSU’s first road game.

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