LAS VEGAS – Nine days after beating the Portland Pilots for the second time, the Gonzaga women will need to do it again on Monday afternoon if they hope to win the West Coast Conference Tournament title that eluded them last year.
On Saturday at the Orleans Arena, fourth-seeded Portland outlasted No. 5 seed Pacific 76-69, setting up a third meeting with even more at stake.
For Portland (19-11), winning the tournament is the only path to its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1994.
Gonzaga (28-2) already has clinched a spot but probably needs to hoist the championship trophy on Tuesday night to secure a No. 4 seed or better and host first- and second-round NCAA games.
GU won both regular-season meetings, but neither game was easy. On Dec. 29 in Spokane, the Zags fell behind by 20 points early in the second quarter but rallied for a 62-57 win.
A week ago in Portland, GU trailed 24-23 at intermission but steadily pulled away in the second half for a 56-42 win. It was the Zags’ 23rd win in a row over Portland.
On Saturday, the Pilots led Pacific 36-31 at halftime, then outscored the Tigers 17-8 to take control.
Forward Alex Fowler, an All-WCC pick and the conference’s newcomer of the year, scored a game-high 27 points.
Fowler was 10 for 17 from the field and pulled down eight rebounds.
The Pilots got 16 points from Haylee Andrews and 12 from Kate Andersen.
Portland won despite making just 1 of 17 shots from long range and getting outrebounded 49-39.
Pacific (17-14, 9-9) was led by Valerie Higgins, who had 21 points and a game-high nine boards.
Both teams made a living at the foul line. Pacific was 24 for 31 and Portland was even better at 27 for 30.
In the other semifinal, second-seeded San Diego (19-10) will face Pepperdine (16-14). The sixth-seeded Waves defeated third-seeded BYU 62-51 in Saturday’s other quarterfinal contest
That game will begin immediately following the GU-Portland contest.
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