Townsend’s jumper gives No. 18 Gonzaga women WCC title


LAS VEGAS — Jill Townsend scored on an 15-foot fadeaway jumper as time expired and No. 18 Gonzaga rallied past second-seeded BYU 43-42 on Tuesday in the West Coast Conference championship to advance to the NCAA Tournament.

Kaylynne Truong inbounded the ball with 0.6 seconds to play, finding Townsend on the left side of the lane. Townsend, one of three starters who did not start because of illness, came off a Jenn Wirth screen and just got the shot off over 6-foot-7 Sara Hamson as time expired.

It was the only points of the game for Townsend, who started on the bench with leading 3-pointer shooter Cierra Walker, and third-leading scorer and second-leading rebounder LeeAnne Wirth because of gastroenteritis.

Freshman Yvonne Ejim, playing a season-high 21 minutes, led the Bulldogs (23-3) with 13 points, nine in the fourth quarter, and nine rebounds — both season highs. She forced a tie-up with a friendly possession arrow on an offensive rebound when Kayleigh Truong missed a layup with two seconds left.

The Bulldogs shot a season-low 28.6% (16 of 56) in their lowest scoring game. Their previous low came in a 61-56 loss at BYU.

Shaylee Gonzales scored 13 points and Paisley Harding had 12 for the Cougars (18-5), who are very much a bubble team. Lauren Gustin had eight points with 13 rebounds.

BYU led 22-13 at the half when Gonzales hit a 3 in the closing seconds. Gonzaga went 9:02 without scoring and missed 17 shots in going 12:39 between baskets.

The Bulldogs were 5 of 29 from the field (17.2%) and had 12 turnovers in the opening half. Jenn Wirth, who shared the WCC player of the year with Gonzales, was 1-of-9 shooting and Melody Kempton, the sixth player of the year, moved into the starting lineup and had six turnovers.

The teams played even in the third quarter, with BYU’s lead getting up to 13, but Ejim scored the first six points of the fourth.

Gonzaga has won five-straight regular season titles but last won the tournament in 2018. BYU, in its sixth title game appearance since joining the league in 2011, beat the Zags 82-68 in 2019 but is now 3-3 in finals. It is Gonzaga’s ninth tourney title.

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