March 2, 2006
SPOKANE, Wash. - Thursday night's wild WCC Quarterfinal shootout between the Santa Clara Broncos and Portland Pilots would certainly have made Sergio Leone smile as the two teams combined to hit 21 three-pointers. But the final blow was dealt by the Broncos as they advanced to Saturday's semifinal round with an 83-77 victory in Spokane.
"It was definitely an up-and-down game, but I thought we kept our composure and managed the clock pretty well in the final five or six minutes which was critical," said head coach Michelle Bento-Jackson.
Michelle Cozad led the Broncos with 25 points and nine rebounds in the contest. With a three-pointer in the first half, Cozad also became the 15th member of Santa Clara's "1,000-Point Club," an exclusive sorority of Bronco women's basketball stars.
The Broncos showed why they are the nation's most prolific long-range shooting team as they drained five threes within the first six minutes of the contest. The fifth of those, from Cozad, gave SCU an 18-9 lead and forced Portland head coach Jim Sollars to burn a quick timeout.
The Santa Clara advantage remained cushy the rest of the half, as Portland closed to within five at 29-24 in the first half, but the Broncos quickly ran off seven-straight points to get the lead up to 12 at 36-24.
During that run Cozad reached the 1,000-career point mark, spotting up on the right wing and draining a three with 4:15 remaining in the first half.
A pair of Cozad free throws on the following two Bronco possessions extended the SCU lead to 40-27 with just under two minutes remaining. With the first-half clock under a minute, Monteith added a pair of buckets inside and came up with a big block on Portland's final possession of the half to keep the SCU lead at 46-30 at the break.
Portland showed some life at the outset of the second half, cutting the Santa Clara lead to 10 behind Rachel Warren's first six points of the game. Warren's 23 points, all scored in the second half, kept Pilot hopes alive throughout the final 20 minutes.
Those final 20 minutes turned into a wildly-entertaining barnburner which saw the two teams let fly with their full long-range shooting arsenals.
Portland's Meagan Bermingham and Santa Clara's Cronk turned the second half into their own personal three-point duel, matching one another blow-for-blow until Bermingham picked up her fifth foul with 2:23 left to play. The pair combined to account for 34 points and shot a combined 8-for-13 from behind the arc in the game.
Cronk's five threes in the game tied a career high while her 21 points were just one shy of her top scoring performance.
"The first time Chandice touched the ball she hit a three, so obviously that helps," Bento-Jackson said about Santa Clara's outside shooting performance. "In the second half she made some key buckets for us, I thought she really balanced her game well, from her outside shots to going right to the basket., She was huge for us off of the bench.
"Our outside shooting is one of the strengths of our team and we're not going to go away from that," Bento-Jackson continued. "But at the same time we need to get a balance between our outside and inside games, we can't solely rely on outside shooting."
The Broncos will now move on to Saturday's semifinals where they will face the Pepperdine Waves, who were 70-58 victors over the Saint Mary's Gaels earlier today. Tip-off from Spokane is set for 2 p.m.