St. Mary’s stops Gonzaga, is new king of the WCC

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St. Mary’s pulled off the double dethrone of Gonzaga this season. But it needed every bit of the regular-season to win the WCC title. Then it needed overtime time to claim the tournament crown.

But it was enough.

The Gaels’ 78-74 win against No. 24 Gonzaga will go down as one of the week’s thrilling games – neither ever held more than a 6-point lead – thanks to high quality of play and intensity. Not to mention a few clutch shots, none bigger than a 3-pointer by Gonzaga’s Elias Harris that forced overtime. The Gaels prevailed during the extra period, but it was quite the show.

Both are headed to the NCAA tournament — St. Mary’s earned the automatic bid, but Gonzaga will get an at-large – but you’d have never guessed it given how heated the game was.

That’s to be expected among rivals that have played this very game for the last four years, though. Call it a gift for college basketball fans ready for the Big Dance to begin.

Guard Matthew Dellavedova led the Gaels (27-5) in scoring with 22 points, most of them coming off shifty moves into the lane past confused Bulldogs defenders. He was one of four St. Mary’s players in double figures, which won the WCC tournament for the second time in three years.

As for Gonzaga (25-6), it displayed some toughness that had been lacking recently. The Zags – who didn’t win the WCC regular-season title for the first time since 2000 – clearly didn’t want to end its season without a trophy of some sort. Maybe that’s why Harris, who led the Zags with 22 points, grabbed a game-high 13 rebounds, most of an added effort.

If freshman guard Kevin Pangos, a 42 percent 3-point shooter and 45 percent overall, doesn’t go 3 for 18 on the night, perhaps Gonzaga wins this game. But they’ll have to settle for yet another NCAA tournament berth. It hasn’t missed since ’98, one of the longest active streaks in D-I.

That’s a nice consolation prize.

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