SANTA Clara, Calif. - For the second consecutive season, Jared Brownridge's late game heroics lifted the Broncos to a last-second victory over Bay Area rival Saint Mary's on Senior Night. Down by one in the waning seconds, the sophomore guard drove through the lane, put up a shot high off the glass and kissed it home to give Santa Clara a 71-70 victory Saturday night at the Leavey Center.
"The play broke down and I knew I had to drive," said Brownridge. "I saw an opening so I wanted to be aggressive and at least draw a foul in case the shot didn't go in. Luckily the shot went in, we played some defense on the other end, and came away with the victory."
The Gaels and Broncos battled back-in-forth throughout the game and Santa Clara was able to outlast a 56.3 percent three-point shooting effort from the Gaels in the second half to seal the win on Santa Clara's Senior Day.
"It was a priceless celebration," said Brownridge. "I was really happy we could get the win for the seniors."
After squandering a double digit lead in the first half, Santa Clara kept pace with the hot shooting Saint Mary's squad in the second half. Down by two with just under three minutes remaining, Jarvis Pugh intercepted a pass, dribbled coast-to-coast and finished with a throw down to tie the contest at 67-67. The Gaels answered with a shot-clock expiring three from the top of key on the next possession to go up by three. After a pair of Brandon Clark free-throws cut the Saint Mary's lead to one, Santa Clara had one last chance to go home victorious. Brownridge provided the answer with a drive and score with 7.4 ticks left on the clock. The Gaels' last-second three went off the mark and the Broncos captured the victory.
With the win, Santa Clara improves to 13-17 overall and 7-11 in the West Coast Conference. Saint Mary's drops to 21-8 overall and 13-5 in conference action. The Broncos will now prepare for the WCC Tournament which is set to tip-off on March 5 in Las Vegas.
The Broncos shot 45.1 percent from the floor (23 of 51), including 33.3 percent from three point land (7 of 21). The Broncos added 85.7 percent from the free throw line (18 of 21). They collected 29 rebounds, dished out 11 assists and added 10 steals, no blocks and 8 turnovers.
Clark, eclipsing the 1,500 career point mark, led the Broncos with 21 points and 5 boards. Fellow guards Brownridge and Denzel Johnson added 17 points apiece.
Saint Mary's shot 39.2 percent from the field (20 of 51), including 46.4 percent from downtown (13 of 28). From the foul line, they shot 70.8 percent (17 of 24). They tallied 35 rebounds, 13 assists, 6 steals, 4 blocks and 15 turnovers.
Kerry Carter propelled Saint Mary's with 19 points, including five three-point buckets. Garrett Jackson added 13 points and Calvin Hermanson followed with 12. Brad Waldow, the WCC's second leading scorer, was held to just 5 points on 1-of-7 shooting.
Starting four seniors, the Broncos jumped out to a 6-5 advantage after the first four minutes of play. Andrew Papenfus, taking the floor for the second time since his surgery, picked up two steals that sparked two buckets by fellow senior Denzel Johnson and a pull-up jumper from Clark.
Clark followed with a triple from the left wing at the 14:13 mark but both squads struggled to convert consistently in the early going. Saint Mary's, the third best shooting team in the conference, opened the contest shooting just 2-of-10 from the field and suffered through a 5:43 scoring drought. Santa Clara was unable to capitalize to from Gaels' scoring woes, shooting 33 percent over the first eight minutes and change of action.
Enacting full court pressure and a tight man-to-man defense, the Broncos continued to hold the Gaels to a low shooting performance and eventually found some rhythm offensively. Looking to score, Brownridge keyed an offensive outburst, drilling a wide-open three-pointer from the right wing. Hubbard followed with a lay in on the next possession to push Santa Clara's lead to 16-6 with 8:02 remaining in the first half.
Emmett Narr got the Gaels going after he drained two shots from beyond the arc during the next three minutes to cut the Santa Clara lead to four at the 5:40 mark. Both squads would trade baskets over the next few possessions and the Gaels continued to chip away at the Santa Clara lead, eventually pulling within two at the 3:45 mark.
After trading free throws over the final three minutes of action, the Broncos entered the locker room with a 25-24 lead.
Coming out firing in the second half, both squads battled back-and-forth, netting four field goals each resulting in a tie ballgame with 15:27 remaining.
The longtime rivals continued to press on the offensive end and battle over the next four and a half minutes. Another Saint Mary's triple pushed the Gael lead to three but Johnson and Clark followed with floaters inside to regain the lead for the Broncos. Later, Carter drilled his third shot from downtown but Santa Clara responded again with a jumper by Clark to knot the score at 41 with 11:57 to go in the game.
A left wing triple from Johnson gave the Broncos a 50-49 lead with nine minutes remaining but Saint Mary's buried another three of their own on the next possession. The Gaels would increase their lead to four for the second time of the half at the 7:20 mark.
Staying in the contest, back-to-back threes by Brownridge and Johnson helped Santa Clara regain control 59-57 but, as they were able to all evening, the Gaels answered with a three-pointer of their own. Later on with just over four minutes remaining, the Gaels maintained a one-point advantage at 66-65 heading into the final moments.
"This win gives us a lot of confidence," said Brownridge. "We feel good about ourselves and we are going into the conference tournament with a lot of confidence and a great mindset.
NOTES: Santa Clara starters (career starts) were Clark (66), Brownridge (62), Johnson (39), Andrew Papenfus (1) and Dominic Romeo (1) .... Papenfus, who had brain surgery on Oct. 6, 2014, to remove a brain turmor started his first career game on Senior Night and he and Romeo were credited by Clark and Johnson post-game for giving the team a real spark to help in the victory.