Jill Townsend will get four more years to entertain Spokane basketball fans.
The Okanogan High School star, a fixture for two years at the State 2B tournament at the Arena, is part of a four-player high school signing class announced Thursday by Gonzaga women’s coach Lisa Fortier.
“I chose Gonzaga because it is a high-level program full of great people I want to surround myself with,” said Townsend, a 5-foot-11 guard whom ESPN.com rates as the 27th-best guard in the nation.
“I grew up watching Gonzaga and I am so excited to be part of this great program,” said Townsend, who averaged 24 points a game last year while leading Okanogan to its second straight 2B title.
Gonzaga also signed twins Jenn and LeeAnne Wirth, a pair of athletic forwards from Chandler, Arizona; and Canadian Louise Forsythe, a sharpshooting guard who’s ranked 13th in her class.
“I am so excited about this recruiting class. They are a very talented and competitive group. They are also extremely versatile,” Fortier said.
Townsend follows a long line of shot creators at GU. Her strengths are getting in the lane, drawing defenders and creating shots for others or finishing with a midrange jump shot.
“Jill is one of the toughest players I have ever seen. She never backs down from any defensive assignment or opponent,” said Fortier, who compares Townsend’s jack-of-all-trades skill set to that of recent graduate Shaniqua Nilles.
Jenn Worth, a 6-2 forward, averaged 9.5 points and six rebounds last year while winning all-section honors and helping her Seton Catholic team win two state titles.
“She’s going to have the ability to stretch defenses, but she’s long and runs the floor well,” Fortier said. “She has a beautiful shot, that, coupled with her inside game, makes her an ideal player for us.”
At 6-3, LeeAnne Wirth is more on an inside presence with strong shot-blocking ability. She is known for her soft touch around the basket and her perimeter game has been improving drastically.
ESPN.com ranks the Wirth sisters tied for 20th in this year’s class.
Forsythe comes in with high credentials from her school in Langley, British Columbia. She has 3-point range and is quick off the dribble with a great midrange game. The 6-0 Forsythe can guard a variety of offensive threats.
Just like future GU teammate Emma Wolfram, she was a member of the U16 Canadian National Team in 2016.
Forsythe’s team has won three straight British Columbia AAA Basketball Championships, and last season she was a BC first-team all-star, first-team regional, and the top scorer in the championship tournament.
Zags open season at home
The Bulldogs open the season with two games in 24 hours, and that’s just fine with guard Emma Stach.
“Back-to-back games in the Kennel, that’s the best part,” said Stach after practice Thursday afternoon at McCarthey Athletic Center.
“I’m just fine playing in front of our great fans,” Stach said.
The Bulldogs open Saturday afternoon against Nicholls State, which is coming off a 10-19 season that included an 8-10 finish in the Southland Conference.
“They like to play a lot of zone, and they don’t care who we are,” Fortier said. “They’re going to come in ready.”
The Colonels, who also are playing in their opener, are led by guard Tia Charles, who averaged 10.7 points last year. Forward Cassidy Barrios had 10.5 points and 5.5 boards.
The homestand continues Sunday against UC Irvine, a mystery team with a new coach in Tamara Inoue, a former assistant at New Mexico State.
Last year, the Anteaters were 4-27 overall and 1-15 in the Big West Conference.
“They’re long and athletic, like to run the floor and are aggressive with the dribble,” Fortier said.
Irvine opens its season Friday at home against Saint Louis before flying to Spokane.
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