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Gonzaga forces OT but loses WCC tourney title

Associated Press Published: March 6, 2012
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LAS VEGAS (AP) — Gonzaga players could have given up when they were down by five points with just 30 seconds remaining.

Elias Harris wouldn't let them.

Harris scored on a driving layup with 16 seconds left, then hit a 3-pointer with 2 ticks on the clock to force overtime.

In the end, Saint Mary's simply had too much for Gonzaga, and held on for the 78-74 overtime victory Monday night to claim its second West Coast Conference tournament title and automatic NCAA bid in three years.

"It was a great battle. They are a great team," Harris said of Saint Mary's. "They hurt us on the boards and we made too many defensive mistakes. One thing led to another and they were up."

It was the first time the Gaels (27-5) have won the regular-season title outright and claimed the tourney championship in the same year.

Now they go on to the NCAA tournament, and the No. 24 Bulldogs, who were playing in their 15th straight WCC title game, have to wait to see if their 25-6 record is enough to get them in.

Gonzaga coach Mark Few certainly thought so, calling Monday's battle a great game "between two high-level tournament teams."

"Forty minutes wasn't enough so we needed another five, and in the end they stepped up and made the big shots," Few said of the fourth overtime final in WCC tourney history.

The one player who had been a big weapon for Gonzaga struggled.

Freshman Kevin Pangos, the WCC newcomer of the year, had a miserable night. He finished with seven points on 3-of-18 shooting and was just 1 of 10 from 3-point range, two days after a 30-point night against Brigham Young.

"My teammates found me. I had good looks. I just didn't knock them down," Pangos said.

Harris led Gonzaga with 22 points, including a 3-pointer with 2 seconds left in regulation to force the extra period.

"I tried to get open and somehow shoot with confidence," Harris said of the game-tying 3. "Sam (Dower) saw me on top and threw me a great pass, and I felt comfortable enough to shoot it."

WCC player of the year Matthew Dellavedova had a chance to win it at the buzzer in regulation but his runner bounced off the rim. He made sure to seal it at the free throw line in OT, especially after he got a critical call when colliding with Pangos going for a rebound near the scorer's table with 39 seconds left.

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