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Sports >  Gonzaga women

Former Gonzaga women’s standout Elle Tinkle, now a nurse in Portland, relishes chance to cheer on the men

Former Gonzaga basketball star Elle Tinkle kept her cool as the crowd lost theirs early in the the second half of the Zags’ 82-78 victory over Memphis on Saturday in Portland.  (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)
Former Gonzaga basketball star Elle Tinkle kept her cool as the crowd lost theirs early in the the second half of the Zags’ 82-78 victory over Memphis on Saturday in Portland. (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)
By Justin Reed The Spokesman-Review

PORTLAND – Gonzaga fans’ heart palpitations resonated throughout the Moda Center during the Bulldogs’ NCAA Tournament second-round clash with Memphis on Saturday.

Former Gonzaga women’s star Elle Tinkle, and a current nurse in Portland, was sitting right behind the GU bench, ready to provide treatment or to dust off her sneakers, whatever was needed.

Luckily, she was able to enjoy the action as a fan, locked into her seat, witnessing one of the more impressive comebacks in Bulldog history.

“It by far is way harder being a fan, so yes, the nerves are very much real,” Tinkle said.

Tinkle, who attended GU from 2012-17, witnessed the highs and lows, from the early round upsets the Bulldogs were accustomed to between 2012 and ’14 to the first run to the national championship game in 2017.

But GU’s 12-point halftime comeback against the Tigers is one that will linger in the mind of Tinkle, just because of how the Zags were able to respond to the adversity of the first half.

“And gosh, talk about a tale between two halves, they put it together and kudos for them for just fighting,” Tinkle said of Gonzaga’s 82-78 win.

With the Bulldogs needing a catalyst, they leaned on their veterans – junior Drew Timme, senior Andrew Nembhard and senior Rasir Bolton.

“I think with just how many different weapons, it makes them difficult to scout,” Tinkle said. “You can’t just scout a particular player, I mean you saw Drew step up in the second half, Andrew as well. They adapt to whatever the defense throws at them, it is what makes them so dangerous.”

A spark plug on the floor which extended into post-career on the sidelines, Tinkle sat back in her seat in that first half, absorbing the environment, and waited for a turnaround.

Normally, she would be been out of her seat, cheering and occasionally chirping at an official or two.

That was the case a year ago, when Tinkle and her sister Joslyn were seen urging on on her dad, Wayne, and brother, Tres – the Oregon State head basketball coach and now-former player – during their surprise run during the 2021 NCAA Tournament.

“Fortunately, I wasn’t on the officials (on Saturday) as much as I normally am,” she said.

While her career is rewarding, her true love and passion is still basketball.

“Still a hoops fan always, that is No. 1,” she said.

She’s been out of the game since she took off her GU uniform for the final time exactly five years and one day from Saturday.

Tinkle finished her Zag career with the most games played (143), wins (113), eighth in steals (188) and was a first-team All-West Coast Conference selection in 2015.

“I feel like I’ve been not far removed, but I guess I am a lot older than I thought,” Tinkle said.

Having the opportunity to see the Bulldogs in person in her backyard was lucky, she said. So, with the Zags advancing to the Sweet 16, is she eyeballing flights to San Francisco?

“That was a blast,” Tinkle said. “It is tough because I don’t get to cheer on my Zags nearly enough in person, so I mean I feel pretty lucky to be here and get to watch this team. I can’t get enough of it, so I might just have to stay on the party train,” Tinkle said.

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