As business trips go, this one will be hard to top.
With an exhilarating 73-72 win over Tennessee on Monday, the Gonzaga women earned third place in the Bad Boy Mowers Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas.
They also earned some national respect. Two days after knocking off No. 6 Louisville in the first round, the Zags beat another elite program in No. 23 Tennessee.
And once again, they did so dramatically. Trailing 72-21 with 14 seconds left, the Zags got the ball to Yvonne Ejim and she hit the eventual winning shot two seconds later.
Tennessee missed three shots in the final seven seconds as GU held on to cap one of the most dramatic weeks in recent program history.
“I’m just so proud of our team,” GU Coach Lisa Fortier said. “Just to fight like we did today – we were up, we were down.”
In other words, it was like every other game the Zags (5-1) have played recently.
Six days earlier, the Zags escaped from Wyoming with a 64-62 win, also courtesy of a last-second Ejim bucket. The win over Louisville didn’t come until overtime, and the semifinal loss to Marquette went down to the wire before GU lost 70-66.
Through that stretch, the Zags overcame an ankle injury to starting Kayleigh Truong. She missed the Marquette game, them gamely played for 6 minutes on Monday and managed six points and an assist.
Kaylynne Truong picked up some of the slack. She made just four of 17 shots but finished with 14 points and six assists.
McKayla Williams (12 points, eight assists) had perhaps the best all-around game of her career, and Brynna Maxwell had 9 points and a 4-point play that helped propel the Zags to the comeback win.
But when it mattered most, the ball went to Ejim. On the court for 30 minutes, she had 22 points and nine rebounds – both game highs.
With GU down 70-66 with one minute, 12 seconds left, Ejim hit the second 3-pointer of her career. Thirty-two seconds later, she stole the ball and went the other way for a layin to give the Zags their first lead since early in the period.
Tennessee answered, and after missed shots by both teams, Ejim scored the eventual game-winner with 12 seconds left.
“I feel like just my teammates continue to encourage me,” said Ejim, who played most of the fourth quarter with four fouls. “I felt their energy.”
Gonzaga was outrebounded 39 to 35 but shot well (8 for 22) from long range and went 17 for 19 from the foul line. Ejim, a career 67% free-throw shooter, made seven of eight attempts against the Vols (2-4).
The Zags will get a few days off before hosting Eastern Washington on Saturday. Tipoff is at 2 p.m.
Jordan Horston led Tennessee with 19 points.
UCLA won the tournament title, beating Marquette 66-58 in overtime.
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