March 5, 2010

Santa Clara Wins Tournament Thriller, 68-67

March 5, 2010

Final Stats | 2010 WCC Tournament Central

LAS VEGAS, Nev. - Maggie Goldenberger made a game-winning jump shot with 3.3 seconds left to lift Santa Clara to a thrilling upset victory over San Diego, 68-67, in the first game of the 2010 West Coast Conference tournament.

The victory was especially sweet for a Santa Clara team that refused to let its disappointing season end with another close loss. The eighth-seeded Broncos (4-26) saw a six-point lead evaporate in the final moments before Goldenberger dropped-in the game-winner.

"We've been close so many times in the regular season," said second-year Santa Clara head coach Jennifer Mountain. "For these players to pull out a victory and to do it like that; I'm so proud of them and happy for them. Today it went our way."

With 34.1 seconds left, San Diego (15-14) cut a three-point SCU lead to one, 66-65, and was in a position of having to foul. However, a backcourt turnover gave USD new life and Dominique Connors put the fifth-seeded Toreros ahead by one on a pull-up jumper with 13.1 to play.

On Santa Clara's final possession, the Broncos broke USD's full-court press and dribble penetration by Telisha Anderson freed-up Goldenberger at the top of the key.

The Broncos received 21 points and 10 rebounds from All-WCC power forward Lena Gipson, who played the final 13 minutes with a swollen right eye after being elbowed in the lane.

"I was going to finish the game even if I couldn't see out of that eye," said Gipson. "I was not going to let it be a factor."

Gipson made three straight SCU baskets in a three-minute span down the stretch to keep the Broncos in front. Gipson entered the week among the nation's leading rebounders. Her double-double Friday was the 34th of her two-year SCU career.

"When (Nya) Mason fouled out, that was a huge opportunity for me to take it at them and make them guard me," said Gipson. "That's probably why Maggie was open on that last play cause they were being forced to double-team."

Mason - USD's 6-foot-2 center - committed her fifth foul with 5:08 to play but Conners single-handedly kept the Toreros in it. The All-WCC sophomore guard scored eight straight for USD in the second half and nearly got the Toreros into the second round with her late game heroics.

"I can't say enough about what (Connors) has done for this team and what she will continue to do," said San Diego head coach Cindy Fisher.

Connors scored 22 points to lead all San Diego players. Connors, Morgan Henderson and Sara Vanderhorst each had eight points by halftime. The trio contributed to a 13-4 USD run to close out the half and allow the Toreros a 37-30 lead at the break.

Santa Clara had played inspired basketball through the first 15 minutes. Bronco guards Rhianna Faithfull, Alyssa Shoji and Ashley Armstrong combined to make five first-half 3s, complementing an impressive opening 20 minutes by Gipson, which included 11 points and seven rebounds.

San Diego held a tentative 44-38 lead seven minutes into the second half when another mid-range basket from Connors extended the USD advantage to eight.

The Broncos immediately fought back, using a driving layup by Armstrong and Faithfull's third 3 to trim the lead down to 46-43 with 11:46 left. Moments later Santa Clara would surge ahead, 47-46, on back-to-back hoops by Goldenberger and Anderson.

Anderson - who generated most of her seven points off the drive - would give Santa Clara its largest lead, 57-51, with 6:36 left.

Goldenberger finished with 12 points and five rebounds. Faithfull scored nine and Armstrong eight.

"I think today we finally put it all together," said Shoji. "We were in games all season that we ended up losing right at the end. Today we got our shot and we did it."

Santa Clara advances to play No. 4 Portland in the quarterfinal round Saturday at 12 p.m.