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Gonzaga Women's Basketball

Gonzaga women showcase veteran team at FanFest

By Greg Lee The Spokesman-Review

Gonzaga women’s basketball coach Lisa Fortier faces a dilemma.

With 11 returners, four of whom were starters and three others who started at least one game, and three talented incoming players, Fortier faces a difficult prospect of doling out minutes.

The battle for minutes was on display Saturday afternoon at FanFest at the McCarthey Athletic Center. An appreciative crowd estimated at 1,500 watched White down Blue 35-25.

How the minutes were shared among 13 players in the 20-minute scrimmage will vary greatly when the regular season rolls around in early November. Three players – returning starter Brynna Maxwell and returning reserves Esther Little and Payton Muma – played all 20 minutes for White.

Fortier emphasized afterward that roles and playing time have yet to be determined. Who will start, who will come off the bench and perhaps even who will redshirt will be decided in the days to come.

“We’re just trying to practice hard every day,” Fortier said. “We’ve had confrontations in practice and we’ve had me getting a little surly at them and them pushing each other. We want to push each other really hard in practice because we’re going to push ourselves whether we like it or not really hard for our games.”

The message regarding playing time is clear among the players.

Gonzaga doesn’t want to relive how the season ended a year ago in back-to-back losses – the first coming in the West Coast Conference Tournament championship game and followed by a 71-48 loss to Ole Miss in the NCAA Tournament.

“It definitely is a motivation coming forward to this year,” said Eliza Hollingsworth, a fifth-year senior and returning starter, about intensity in practice. “We have a lot of girls on this team – all of us on this team – who don’t want that (the end of last season) to happen again. And we have the parts, we have people with experience, so it’s just translating that on the court. We know nothing is granted and we have to put in the work.”

Maxwell and returning starter Yvonne Ejim led White with 11 points each.

Hollingsworth added seven points to go with a team-high eight rebounds. Little had five assists.

Returning fifth-year senior Kayleigh Truong, who missed 23 games with an injury last season, led the White team with 10 points and three assists.

The teams combined for 17 assists.

White built a 27-14 lead before Blue bounced back with an 8-0 run to tighten up the final margin.

Defense has been a point of emphasis, and at times, both units showed flashes of the defense Forties expects.

“We did some things defensively really well,” Fortier said. “The way we hounded the point guard was really good. We lost the shooters a couple of times. We’ve got to get better at that part.

“We have some different defenses we weren’t able to get out and show yet, but I thought they guarded the ball well.”

Prior to the scrimmage, the team held skills and 3-point-shooting contests. Returning junior Maud Huijbens beat redshirt freshman transfer Naya Ojukwu in the skills final. The 3-point-shooting final featured Hollingsworth and Maxwell. They tied 14-14 in the title faceoff, and Hollingsworth prevailed in the fifth round of alternate shots.

The Zags return to action on Nov. 2 when they meet visiting Warner Pacific in an exhibition.

Gonzaga opens the regular season Nov. 6 at Montana.