Liberty grad Maisie Burnham shines in leading role for Portland, clinching WCC championship over Gonzaga
March 7, 2023 Updated Tue., March 7, 2023 at 6:29 p.m.
Portland Pilots guard Maisie Burnham (24) hoists guard Kelsey Lenzie (32) after they defeated the Gonzaga Bulldogs during the second half of a WCC tournament championship basketball game on Tuesday, March 7, 2023, at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, Nev. The Portland Pilots won the game 63-60. (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)Buy a print of this photo
LAS VEGAS – As Maisie Burnham drained a 3-point shot early in the game, she stared down a Gonzaga defender and ran back up the court, ready for more.
An hour later, she and her Portland teammates hoisted the West Coast Conference Tournament trophy – quite a journey for a kid from Spangle who spent her first college season at Eastern Washington before joining the Pilots.
“Growing up in Spokane, I’ve definitely been around that environment and that setting; that’s what made me want to beat them so bad,” Burnham said Tuesday after the Pilots knocked off the favored Bulldogs 64-60 to reach their first NCAA Tournament since 1997.
Burnham was a major reason why. On the court for 33 minutes, she had a team-high 19 points, six rebounds and two assists.
More to the point, she had four of the Pilots’ 12 steals in a game that was largely decided by 24 Gonzaga turnovers.
“It’s definitely a surreal feeling,” Burnham said.
The daughter of State B Tournament legend Blaze Burnham, she was a multisport star at Liberty High School, the 2B Player of the Year and a McDonald’s All-American nominee.
After leading the Lancers to the state title in 2020, she signed with Eastern Washington. Overachieving again, she started 18 games and lead the Eagles with 14.3 points a game, the most by a freshman in program history and the seventh most in the Big Sky in the 2020-21 season.
At year’s end, she was the Big Sky Freshman of the Year. But amid the turmoil in the program, she and several players chose to go elsewhere.
“I enjoyed my time at Eastern, but it was a time for me to move on,” Burnham said.
Impressed by the fast-improving basketball program at Portland and the school’s strong accounting program, she chose the Pilots and caught on immediately.
Last year, she played in all but one game, averaging 10 points and three rebounds as a wing. This year, Burnham broke into the starting lineup, averaging 11 points and four rebounds.
Yet something was missing: a win over Gonzaga. After two losses last year, the Pilots came close in both regular-season meetings this season, losing by 10 in the Kennel with the WCC regular-season title at stake.
That only stoked the fires for Monday’s upset.
“This feels great,” Burnham said.
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