The Gonzaga women were off and running Saturday afternoon.
The Bulldogs pushed the paced for all 20 minutes of their annual Blue vs. White scrimmage at the McCarthey Athletic Center. Everybody’s lungs got a workout, from the roughly 2,000 fans to the 12 players on the court.
Forward Jill Barta said after the Bulldogs’ first live action of the new season: “When we get out there running, they can’t stop us.”
Unless they stop themselves. The Bulldogs did that a few times – coach Lisa Fortier noted that the first two possessions ended in turnovers – but they looked solid after only two weeks of practice.
“We still have a lot of things to work out,” said Fortier, who watched the scrimmage from the scorer’s table while her assistants handled the floor duties.
“We want to run fast and play at a fast tempo, so you have to take your lumps early if you want to do that,” Fortier said after the Blue team eked out a 30-28 win.
With a guard-heavy lineup and a lot of new faces, the Bulldogs played entertaining basketball in an informal setting. Officials were on hand, but rules were relaxed enough to allow Barta to play much of the fourth quarter with five fouls.
The Bulldogs’ leading scorer last year, Barta had a game-high 14 points along with three blocks.
Some of the biggest cheers were for senior guard Elle Tinkle, who started her fifth year with a stat sheet that wouldn’t look bad in a full 40-minute game: 7 points, four steals and six boards.
Tinkle sparkled late in the first half, first with a nice follow-up on her own missed shot, and just before the buzzer with a steal and layup that put her Blue team back in the game.
The 6-foot-2 Tinkle, out most of last year with a meniscus injury, “Brings length and versatility,” Fortier said. “She knows exactly what we’re doing.”
The new players are catching on. Guard Makenlee Williams beat Emma Stach in the 3-point shooting contest, then scored six points while looking comfortable despite not playing last year after transferring from Utah State.
“It was fun to be in that environment,” Williams said. “I wanted to keep playing.”
The Bulldogs will get that chance in less than three weeks. The learning curve will go up only slightly in the exhibition against NAIA Corban of Salem, Oregon, on Nov. 4.
Home games follow the next week against Nicholls State and UC Irvine before a big test at Stanford on Nov. 18.
In the meantime, GU will get back to work with an eye toward improving on last year’s 19-14 season.
“I’m proud of how we played,” Barta said. “At first we were kind of sketchy, but as we played it worked itself out.”
“I’m just super excited to back playing,” Barta said.
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