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Gonzaga Women's Basketball
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Gonzaga women notebook: Zags look past recent history of loss inside Orleans Arena

UPDATED: Tue., March 9, 2021

Gonzaga head coach Lisa Fortier speaks with players during a timeout in the second half of a West Coast Conference semifinal NCAA college basketball game against Santa Clara, Monday, March 8, 2021, at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.  (COLIN MULVANY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
Gonzaga head coach Lisa Fortier speaks with players during a timeout in the second half of a West Coast Conference semifinal NCAA college basketball game against Santa Clara, Monday, March 8, 2021, at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas. (COLIN MULVANY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

To embrace the moment and let go of the past.

That was the challenge Monday as the Zags faced Santa Clara in the West Coast Conference semifinals: to embrace the moment and let go of the past.

They did that for about 2 hours, handling Santa Clara, 72-62.

It wasn’t easy.

Two years ago, Jill Townsend broke her leg and in a semifinal win over Saint Mary’s. The Zags won that game, but also lost Laura Stockton to a torn ACL in the same game.

One night later, GU lost the title game to BYU.

However, Coach Lisa Fortier wasn’t there for the end. In the fourth quarter she rushed out of the arena and to the hospital to see her brother.

Hayden Mispley died the next day.

“Two years ago, that was a big deal for us,” Fortier said. “I know that when Townie comes in here, she remembers where she broke her leg, and I also know where Laura tore her ACL and where I was when my brother died.”

“It’s a little tough walking in here,” said Fortier, referring to Sunday’s practice at the Orleans.

“But I’m choosing to recall of the good things that have happened,” said Fortier, who has been part of seven WCC tournament title teams.

In comparison, last year’s semifinal loss to Portland was merely that – a setback, though it happened in heartbreaking fashion on a last-second shot by the Pilots.

Three days later, COVID-19 dealt everyone a bigger loss when the NCAA canceled the NCAA Tournament.

Townsend didn’t talk about the injuries, but acknowledged that the senior players “have a lot of weight here.”

However, she had no inclination to burden the underclassmen.

After winning eight tournament titles in the previous 12 years, GU has fallen short two straight years.

“We’re just trying not to put that pressure on the rest of the team, like ‘we haven’t won it since freshman year.’ There’s no need to do that,” Townsend said.

Instead, Townsend went out Monday and put up a 14-point, 10-rebound double-double.

“We just need to not put too much pressure on each other in that way, just going out carefree and sharing the ball,” Townsend said.

Struggling from long range

Two trends – one encouraging, the other quite worrisome – continued Monday for the Gonzaga women.

The Zags came into the WCC Tournament on a remarkable run at the foul line – 84% in their previous five games.

They were even better on Monday, hitting 13 of 14, or 93%.

However, 3-point shooting slumped further against Santa Clara, as the Zags were just 5-for-18.

In the six games, GU is 33 for 110, or 30%.

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