March 6, 2022 

Inside the West Coast Conference Tournament quarterfinal Saturday

A battle and a blowout were the outcomes of Quarterfinal Saturday of the WCC women's basketball tournament

LAS VEGAS — We’re down to our last four teams battling for the West Coast Conference tournament title. Here’s how the quarterfinals shook out as two teams looked for their third win in three days.

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March 5, 2022; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Portland Pilots guard Emme Shearer (5) against the Loyola Marymount Lions during the first half of the WCC Basketball Championships at Orleans Arena. Photo Credit: Kyle Terada

Game 1: No. 4 Portland 69, No. 9 Loyola Marymount 44

Game Summary: Behind some strong defense and 20 forced turnovers, Portland cruised to the WCC tournament semifinals. LMU came out with the same energy in this one as they did Friday, looking for their third straight upset. Despite LMU shooting just 33% in the first quarter, the two teams were tied at 14 after 10 minutes. Portland came out in the second quarter and dominated. Behind five forced Lions turnovers and stellar defense, the Pilots outscored LMU 19-6 and took a 13-point lead into the half. The Pilots held the Lions to just 23% shooting in the first half. After a slow start to the third quarter, Portland exploded out of the media timeout outscoring LMU 17-8 and extending their lead to 24 going into the final quarter. LMU didn’t give up in the fourth, but the deficit was too great, and Portland prevailed.

My thoughts on Portland’s performance: Portland is the kind of team that presses a lot, wants to speed you up and turn you over. It wasn’t very effective in the first quarter, but it was excellent the rest of the game. The Pilots forced 20 turnovers in the game, a lot of them coming from their press, and many of them led to layups. They also did a good job of forcing LMU to take the kind of shots they wanted them to take. The Lions rushed a lot of shots and missed them. Both of Portland’s runs in the second and third quarter were fueled by turnovers off their press. Alex Fowler is an incredible player. She was a big reason why Portland won the WCC tournament two years ago. In this win, she had 17 points, seven rebounds and drew seven fouls. Portland’s defense was the key to their victory.

“I think it’s just different and we play a different style of press. I don’t think a lot of teams necessarily see it,” Portland coach Michael Meek said. “I do think it is something that at times can lead to easier baskets and I felt like the last couple games we’ve been kind of back to who we have been defensively.”

My thoughts on LMU’s performance: LMU showed a lot with the effort they gave in this tournament. For a team with a first-year head coach to win two games at the WCC tournament is really impressive. I expect LMU to improve greatly over the next few years. Aarika Hughes learned a lot from this season and I think she is a phenomenal coach. Alexis Mark is going to be a really good player for the Lions. She has great handles and excellent touch around the basket. If she can add a jump shot, she will be incredibly difficult to guard. The Lions struggled with turnovers and took quick shots, which was exactly what Portland wanted. They are a young team and will learn how to handle pressure. However, they never gave up and kept fighting. Jasmine Jones had a long career at LMU and feels the team has a bright future under Hughes.

“We’ve had a lot of ups and downs throughout this whole entire program. So I’m just proud that I’ve been a part of every single roller coaster in the past five years,” Jones said. “Next year, I would be scared if I was other teams in this conference playing LMU, there’s a different fight my teammates have that I’m just proud of.”

March 5, 2022; Las Vegas, NV, USA; San Francisco Dons guard Jessica McDowell-White (14) against the Santa Clara Broncos during the first half of the WCC Basketball Championships at Orleans Arena. Photo Credit: Kyle Terada

Game 2: No. 3 San Francisco 72, No. 7 Santa Clara 63

Game Summary: Using a balanced scoring attack that featured four players in double figures, San Francisco defeated Santa Clara. The Dons came out of the gates on fire and were up 20-5 eight minutes into the first quarter. However, Santa Clara finished the quarter on a 12-2 run and trailed by just five points after one. The scoring slowed down significantly in the second quarter, but WCC leading scorer Ioanna Krimili got going for the Dons, scoring six points and dishing three assists in the frame. The Dons led 34-26 at the break. The third quarter was back and forth as both teams traded runs. USF led by as many 15 in the quarter and Santa Clara cut the deficit to as low as six. A buzzer beating three by Jazmine Gayles gave USF an 11-point lead heading into the fourth. Santa Clara started the fourth quarter on a 10-0 run to cut the USF lead to just one with eight minutes remaining. Santa Clara would make it a one possession multiple times but could never grab the lead and the Dons hung on for the win.

My thoughts on San Francisco’s performance: The Dons offense is electric. They have the ability to score quickly and get contributions from multiple players. If you haven’t watched Krimili play before, find time to do so. The sophomore guard from Greece was the leading scorer in the WCC this year and shot the three very well. She didn’t make any in this game, but she has added a jump shot this season and has vastly improved her finishing at the rim. Krimili had 18 points to go along with six rebounds and seven assists. Freshman forward Claudia Langarita has been a spark for the Dons this season. She had 16 points off the bench and can knock down the outside shot as well, making one three. The Dons struggled with rebounding and that is something they will need to shore up if they want to make a deep run in this conference tournament. San Francisco is a team that averages making eight threes per game but only made four. They made up for it by scoring 42 points in the paint. Coach Molly Goodenbour said the team has evolved this season and doesn’t just have to rely on one way of winning.

“Last year, if Ioanna wasn’t our leading scorer, we had a hard time winning games, this year we’re regularly having three and four people in double figures scoring-wise,” Goodenbour said. “I think those new additions to the team have certainly helped us be a better unit and a more prepared to compete with and beat a team like Gonzaga.” 

My thoughts on Santa Clara’s performance: The Broncos put on a gritty performance without their leading scorer. Ashley Hiraki stepped up and played big for Santa Clara with 17 points and seven rebounds. She played one of the best games of her career and was playing with a lot of confidence during this tournament. Merle Wiehl had a great game as well and will be missed greatly as she has finished her career at Santa Clara. The Broncos never gave up, even when down 15 points at two separate points in the game. They cut the deficit to one possession multiple times in the fourth but never could get over the hump. They struggled with turnovers and fouls but managed to put on a solid performance as an undermanned team. Santa Clara and San Francisco have played single-digit games in eight of the last 10 matchups and Bill Carr said the teams’ similar philosophies is why they have such great battles.

“The teams are built somewhat similar; I have a ton of respect for Molly and her staff. They compete and they make you want to bring your best as well,” Carr said. “I think it’s just two really good programs going at each other and competing. They’re fun games to be in and why you play college basketball, for these type of games.”

Written by Matthew Walter

Matthew Walter covers the Las Vegas Aces, the Pac-12 and the WCC for the Next. He is a former Director of Basketball Operations and Video Coordinator at three different Division I women's basketball programs.

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