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Shannon Mathews buried two treys early to help build Gonzaga's lead to a convincing 19-5 with 10:00 to go in the first-half of the West Coast Conference Semifinals Saturday in Jenny Craig Pavilian on the campus of the University of San Diego.
Play would be ragged and the hot-shooting Zags cooled off while the cold-shooting Lady Broncos of Santa Clara University started warming up. For 19:59 seconds, the Lady Bulldogs held the lead, but a three-pointer at the halftime buzzer lifted Santa Clara to a two-point lead after 20 minutes.
During halftime, it was discovered that the ball in use was a men's basketball, not a women's basketball. A men's basketball is slightly larger than the women's version. So a new, proper ball was brought in for the second-half.
The game remained tight as the Broncos and Bulldogs matched each other with the former maintaining a slight lead. When Lady Zag Anne Bailey launched a trey to tie with 13:00 to go...
Somebody in San Diego hit a power pole and knocked out a transformer. The Jenny Craig Pavilian sat in darkness, lit only by dim auxilary lights. Bailey's shot might've swished in, or not... Nobody could see it.
For 70 minutes the game was on hold. Finally, the lights came on, the two teams warmed up, and the game started down the stretch run. And oh what a stretch run it would be.
Gonzaga took the lead and held it to the final moments. After the Lady Zags missed free-throws, Santa Clara hit a short shot to pull within one. Triana Allen was fouled and calmly sank both foul shots, a bizarre event in itself in that these were the only two points in the game (0-10 from the field) for the dependable senior guard.
So Gonzaga led by three with 5+ seconds left. In desperation, SCU got the ball in, made it to within 22 feet of the basket and launched a Hail Mary one-handed hook-shot trey.
Nothing but net! Overtime!
Mathews immediately nailed another trey and the Lady Bulldogs clinged to a tenuous lead throughout the five-minute overtime. But missed opportunities and squandered chances took their toll and the Santa Clara Ladies took a one-point lead with over 20 seconds to go, plenty of time for the Zags to get a good last shot to finally end this wild affair.
But a missed layup (too hard) and a little 8-foot putback (off the rim) that fell away. The final buzzer sounded. There would be no buzzer-beating heroics on this day for Gonzaga.
It was a classic case of "so close yet so far away" for the Gonzaga Women's team. With a win in this semifinal game, they would have been a single game away from an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, the first in school history.
But with only one senior, and mostly sophs and frosh, Zag fans can't help but think great things lie ahead for the Bulldog women. That said, senior leader Triana Allen will be missed. Her passion, fire and dedication for her team are elements that others now must step up and fill.
With another strong incoming class, combined with a healthy Juliann Laney (ACL) and another year of experience for everyone else, 2003-2004 holds great promise.