January 11, 2007

Broncos Drop Overtime Heartbreaker To Bulldogs

Jan. 11, 2007

Final Stats |  Quotes

SPOKANE, Wash. - Thursday night's hard-fought women's basketball thriller between Santa Clara and Gonzaga ended in heartbreak for the Broncos, as they dropped a 78-73 overtime decision at the McCarthy Athletic Center. Despite leading from the early moments of the contest, SCU couldn't hold off the Bulldog rally after getting into foul trouble late in the second half.

"It was a hostile environment we were in, and our leading scorers had off nights, but we still should have won the ballgame," said head coach Michelle Bento-Jackson. "Those were encouraging and positive things to look at, but the slippage that we had at crucial points of the game, you just can't have that in close games on the road."

The Broncos (9-8, 1-1) will conclude the trip Saturday afternoon with a 2 p.m. contest against the Portland Pilots at the Chiles Center.

Jen Gottschalk led the Bronco effort with a career-high 30 points, her second-straight career-best performance, and grabbed seven rebounds.

"Jen was unbelievable for us tonight, she literally had this team on her back," Bento-Jackson said. "Nothing was going to hold her back tonight, she carried us, and she did everything she could possibly do."

Ashley Gonnerman scored 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting from the floor while Anna Martin and Tracey Walker each added eight points. Santa Clara shot 51.8% (29-of-56) collectively, but 21 turnovers, which Gonzaga converted in 22 points on the night, were a deciding factor.

Stephanie Hawk scored 29 of her 33 points in the second half and overtime after being held to four points in the first half, while also grabbing a game-high 11 rebounds. Heather Bowman added 20 points and five rebounds.

Gonnerman scored the first eight points of the game for the Broncos, helping stake them to a quick 8-4 lead. Santa Clara's hot start, which saw them hit their first six shots from the floor on the way to a 56.0% shooting performance in the first half, helped keep Gonzaga from applying sufficient pressure on the defensive end, while on defense, Gottschalk, Gonnerman, and Kasey Monteith teamed up to limit Hawk's effectiveness.

Soon after a Gonnerman jumper gave SCU a 21-16 lead, Gonzaga head coach Kelly Graves was whistled for a technical foul at the 8:46 mark for overzealously questioning an official's call. Graves' technical, instead of waking up the Bulldogs, had the opposite effect, as Chandice Cronk hit one of the technical free throws and Gottschalk hit a three on the ensuing possession to put SCU up by nine at 25-16. Gonzaga would get to within four at 31-27 with just under four minutes to go in the half, but a quick five-point SCU burst helped carry the Broncos to a 36-28 halftime lead.

The start of the second half saw the Bronco lead get to nine at 41-32, but Hawk scored the next six Bulldog points to help pull to within three at 43-40. Hawk's 29 points in the second half single-handedly kept Gonzaga in the contest, as foul trouble forced SCU's Gonnerman and Gottschalk to the bench for stretches of the second half.

Santa Clara held onto its slim lead throughout much of the second half, holding off Bulldog rallies by twice getting out to six-point leads, once after Gonzaga pulled to within one at 56-55. But behind the play of Hawk, the Bulldogs eventually knotted things up at 67-67 with 2:17 to play.

Neither team scored the rest of the way to the final horn of regulation. Each team had its chances in the final minute, as Walker missed the front end of a one-and-one with 59 seconds to play, and Cronk's three-point attempt with 28 seconds left went in and out of the hoop. Finally, as time expired, Gonzaga, on the final possession of regulation, missed a pair of jumpers, the last by Bowman.

In the extra session, the Broncos took the first lead on Gottschalk's layup, but with 3:34 to play, she tallied her fifth foul of the game, as the Broncos lost their top scorer in the contest. Trailing 73-71 with 1:11 to play, the Broncos lost another factor, as Gonnerman picked up her fifth as well.

Bowman hit only one of the two free throws resulting from Gonnerman's foul, and Ashley Graham's driving layup left the Broncos down one with 57 seconds to play. After a Walker steal gave Santa Clara possession with 28 seconds left and the shot clock turned off, a left-handed layup from her hand failed to fall with 11 seconds to play, forcing SCU to foul. Two free throws from Hawk made it a three-point deficit, and a Bronco turnover on the inbound pass sealed the decision.