March 8, 2003
SAN DIEGO, Calif. - The Santa Clara University women's basketball team overcame a 15-point deficit in the first half to defeat Gonzaga in overtime in the first semifinal of the 2003 West Coast Conference Championship. Down by three points with five seconds remaining in regulation, Kayla Huss hit a three pointer to send the game into overtime and the 60-59 win advanced the Broncos to championship contest for the second straight season.
The Broncos, 20-9 on the season, will play the winner of the Pepperdine/San Diego contest that began immediately after the Broncos' victory.
Santa Clara had five players score in double figures; Kim Butler led with 13 while Kendra Rhea-from nearby Lakeside-added 12. Huss, Quinn Thomas and Megan Nelson each added 10 points. Rhea and Thomas both reached double figures in rebounding, with 11 and 10, respectively.
The Bulldogs were led by Shannon Mathews' 22 points. Ashley Burke added 11 points and a game-high 14 rebounds.
Gonzaga's Triana Allen hit two free throws with five seconds left in regulation to give the Zags a 52-49 advantage. Despite the full-court pressure, Huss dribbled down the right hand side, and while falling out of bounds, heaved a one-handed attempt that was nothing but net.
The bench rushed onto the court, but the Broncos still faced their 17th overtime contest in program history. Now 9-8 in those extra-period games, Santa Clara left Gonzaga still looking for it's first tournament win since 1994.
Mathews hit a three to start the overtime period and pushed the lead to five with two free throws by Burke. Santa Clara reduced the lead to one with points from Nelson and Thomas. Raeanna Jewell hit two free throws to give the Zags a 59-56 advantage. A jumper by Thomas made it a one-point ball game heading into the final minute.
With 39 seconds remaining, Gonzaga turned the ball over on its next possession and Rhea gave Santa Clara the final lead with a jumper she banked in with just 31 seconds remaining. Gonzaga committed another turnover and was forced to foul. The Broncos could not convert from the charity stripe, giving the Bulldogs one more opportunity with 20 seconds remaining. Gonzaga missed its first attempt but had the possession arrow in its favor when a jump ball was called with just 3.3 seconds remaining. The Zags missed two final attempts in the closing seconds.
In total, there were five ties and 14 lead changes in the contest.
Both teams got off to a slow start, but back-to-back threes by Mathews sparked the Bulldogs to a 13-5 lead. Santa Clara missed 11 straight field goals, while going without a basket for 8:12 on the clock, as the Zags built up a 22-7 lead. Nelson stopped the drought with her baseline jumper with 6:40 remaining in the half.
The tides turned, as the Broncos went on a run, responding to Gonzaga's 17-0 run with a 14-0 streak of their own. Santa Clara reduced the deficit to one, 22-21 with a Rhea jumper with less than two minutes to go in the period.
Anne Bickelhaupt scored a short jumper to push the Bulldogs' lead to three, but Rhea responded with another successful post move to keep the Broncos close. Gonzaga missed on its next possession, allowing the Broncos to grab the lead with the final attempt. As the shot clock wound down, Whitney Sutak stepped up for a huge baseline three that gave Santa Clara a 26-24 halftime edge.
A 51-minute campus-wide power outage took place with 13:49 left in the game, with the Broncos ahead 37-34. The teams took 15 minutes to warm-up again before play resumed. The game went back and forth, but a three by Burke gave Gonzaga a 50-44 lead with 1:51 remaining in regulation. Thomas hit a three and Nelson recorded her third block of the game on a key defensive possession. The Broncos couldn't convert and had to foul.
Jewell missed two opportunities at the free throw line, with separate one-and-one situations and the Broncos pulled to within one with a jumper by Huss. Allen hit her free throws before Huss responded again with the three that brought the crowd to its feet.