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Sports >  Gonzaga women

Portland women upset top-seeded Gonzaga 64-60 to win WCC Tournament championship

March 7, 2023 Updated Tue., March 7, 2023 at 7:02 p.m.

By Jim Allen For The Spokesman-Review

LAS VEGAS – Well into the second half of Tuesday’s West Coast Conference Tournament championship game, the Gonzaga women appeared to have matters well on hand.

Then the Zags lost their grip on the ball, a double-digit lead and ultimately the game, 64-60, to the Portland Pilots at the Orleans Arena.

In that context, the promise of hearing their name called on Selection Sunday didn’t mean that much. On top of that, the loss will probably mean a lower seed and a tougher opponent in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

“I’m not good at this speech,” said GU coach Lisa Fortier, who had led the Zags to the two previous tournament titles, including an upset of BYU a year ago.

This time the script was flipped by an underdog Portland squad that had played the Zags close in two regular-season matchups.

Down by 11 midway through the third quarter, the Pilots took advantage of five GU turnovers in a 2-minute span to seize the momentum.

Gonzaga (28-4) recovered in the fourth quarter but was done in by turnovers – 24 for the game.

Despite that, the Zags played their way back into the game.

Down by six late in the fourth quarter, the Zags took a 59-58 lead on a jumper by Kaylynne Truong with 43 seconds left. Portland’s Alex Fowler answered with a layup and foul shot to put the Pilots up two.

Fortier called timeout to set up a potential tying score, or better. But Yvonne Ejim was called for an offensive foul with 31 seconds left and Portland guard McKelle Meek made two free throws at the other end to make it 63-59.

Gonzaga missed a 3-pointer, but Calli Stokes grabbed the offensive rebound and was fouled with 14.7 seconds left.

Three seconds later, Gonzaga trapped Meek in the corner and a jump ball was called with the possession arrow favoring Gonzaga. But Portland forced another tie-up and took possession at 6.2 seconds to close the game.

It was a fitting end to a game that saw the Zags hit their second-highest turnover mark of the season. They had 29 against Louisville, yet found a way to win.

They seemed well on the way early in the third quarter, leading by 13 and shutting down Fowler.

But Portland’s defensive pressure caused problems for Gonzaga late in the third quarter, leading to 12 unanswered points to take its first lead, 46-45, since the first quarter.

“Portland was aggressive and very physical,” Fortier said. “Turnovers were the reason for the outcome.

“Our shooting (42% from the field, 33% from long range) was good enough, but I wish we’d handled the pressure better than we did.”

Ejim had 21 points and 14 rebounds before fouling out late for Gonzaga (28-4). Truong, the WCC Player of the Year, had 18 points, five assists and three steals – but also seven turnovers.

Truong fell hard to the floor late in the game, but Fortier said she didn’t think it was serious.

“I think she’s fine,” Fortier said.

Both players were named to the all-tournament team.

Portland (23-8) snapped a six-game losing streak against the No. 16 Zags, with its last win coming in the tournament semifinals in the 2019-20 season.

The Pilots won the tournament championship that year before the season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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