Lady Waves Win WCC Crown

Ending an improbably successful season the right way, Pepperdine's women's basketball team polished off Santa Clara, 69-57, to win the West Coast Conference tournament and earn an automatic berth to the NCAA's for the second consecutive year.

Trailing 32-30 at halftime, Pepperdine turned on the jets in the second half, holding the Broncos to just 25 points and using a 25-7 run over the final eight minutes to turn a six-point deficit into a comfortable win.

Keani Christianson led the Waves with 16 points and nine rebounds. Kelli Spencer added a career-high 13 points, and Tamara McDonald scored 10 with six rebounds and three assists.

The Waves swept all three games against the talented, experienced Broncos this year, a difficult task under any circumstances. That they did so without Shandrika Lee is simply remarkable.

In fact, Pepperdine utterly dominated the WCC all season long. The team lost twice to fourth-place San Francisco but went 14-0 against the rest of the league (counting tourney games).

Lee, the defending Conference Player of the Year, went down for the season December 28 with a torn ACL. Given that she led the team in several offensive categories it seemed that the season could go down with her.

Instead, the Waves rallied around the loss and have gone 15-3 since. In addition to the San Francisco losses, the Waves fell at then-#7 Stanford in early January.

As if losing Lee weren't enough, the Waves also went without senior leader Damaris Hinojosa for three weeks in the middle of conference season. Once again, the team shook it off and continued to win.

Virtually every Wave has stepped up her game in Lee's absence:

- Shannell Law exploded for 26 points and 10 rebounds in a rout over San Diego on Valentine's Day, then followed that up the next night with a buzzer-beating fadeaway to secure the home victory over Santa Clara.

- Keani Christianson set a career high with 21 points the final weekend of the season, only to best it with 22 in the WCC semifinals.

- Nicole Funn and Law have been the Waves' scoring leader in Lee's absence.

- Tamara McDonald has filled Lee's shoes at starting point guard by averaging 9.3 points and 2.8 assists.

In a statistical oddity, no Waves average double figures, but five of them score between 8.8 and 9.9 points, a testament to the balance and teamwork they display.

So they will spend the next week in anticipation of the tournament bracket announcements next Sunday.

It will be a well-deserved break.