LAS VEGAS – One by one, the Gonzaga Bulldogs climbed the ladder to the hoop and cut off pieces of the net.
They hoisted their mementos in the air in celebration after a convincing 74-54 win over Brigham Young on Tuesday night in the West Coast Conference Tournament championship game.
While it’s tradition for the head coach to cut down the rest of the net, Gonzaga coach Mark Few stayed far away from the ladder. Instead, he passed off the honor off to to his leader on the court, Josh Perkins.
Perkins was the last of the Zags to the top of the ladder. He snipped off a piece for himself, then cut down the rest of the net and held it high for the crowds around Orleans Arena to see.
“It’s still a feeling I can’t put in words,” Perkins said.
Perkins swallowed a lot of pride in the WCC Tournament and stepped out of the spotlight. Instead of attempting his usual big shots, Perkins settled for a role in the background, especially in the games leading up to the championship on Tuesday. In those two showings, Perkins had just three field goals and nothing from 3-point range. Against San Francisco on Monday, he attempted no 3-pointers, the first time all season that he didn’t try at least one shot from 3-point range.
Instead, Perkins worked on dishing out as many assists as he could. He tallied six assists against Loyola Marymount on Friday and eight against the Dons.
“(I’m) just getting my guys in the right spots to be successful,” he said. “When shots are going like that, I’ll keep passing it to them.”
On Tuesday, Perkins was back in that same role, finishing with another eight assists.
Perkins took a different route in the championship game, attempting to join his teammates in some big numbers on the stat sheet.
In the first half, the new plan didn’t work out too well. He opened the game going 0 for 5 from the field, including three misses from 3-point range. In that stretch he already had five assists, four setting up 3-point shots for forward Killian Tillie and guard Zach Norvell.
But Perkins, still aching for a basket, wouldn’t back off his shot. He finally got the ball to fall on a layup with 2:32 left in the first half, big enough to light a fire under him. He closed out the half with another drive at the buzzer that gave the Zags a 38-29 lead and got Gonzaga fans on their feet.
Perkins came back in the second yearning for a bucket from 3-point range. Despite a good season shooting 3-pointers, he’s been struggling lately to get good looks from the arc. He got his big 3-pointer midway through the second off a feed from guard Silas Melson, his only long-range make in the tournament.
With his 3-point shots not coming, Perkins turned back to what worked for him in the first half and made drives inside.
He started the second half with a steal and a breakaway layup that put the Zags up 57-31. Then he fought his way again against BYU’s bigs and got another basket at the rim. Perkins finished the night with one more drive that gave the Zags a comfortable 24-point lead in the final minutes.
His efforts inside added up to 11 points for the night. He shot 5 of 13 from the field and had only one turnover in 35 minutes.
“(I was) just trying to take advantage of the defense,” Perkins said. “And tonight, it was my night.”
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