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Originally published March 9, 2009 at 5:00 PM | Page modified March 9, 2009 at 10:08 PM

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Gonzaga women win WCC title, advance to NCAA tournament

Gonzaga's Courtney Vandersloot, from Kentwood High, was the tournament MVP.

Seattle Times staff reporter

LAS VEGAS — Gonzaga's women took a page from their men's basketball book here Monday, winning a second West Coast Conference tournament championship in three years with a 66-55 victory over San Diego.

Now the Gonzaga women would like to take another one. It was 10 years ago that their male counterparts launched a memorable NCAA run with two victories in Seattle, and there's a women's sub-regional at Washington on March 21 and 23.

"Kinda hope for Seattle," Gonzaga women's coach Kelly Graves said with a grin.

No doubt that would be fine for a couple of key Zags. Courtney Vandersloot, sophomore guard from Kentwood High, added tournament MVP to the same honor she won during the WCC regular season, and Garfield High product Vivian Frieson chipped in 11 points and six rebounds.

"It's probably the highest feeling I've felt," said Frieson, "to go to that Big Dance and have a chance to do some damage."

Said Vandersloot, whose 10 assists matched San Diego's team total, "We worked so hard to accomplish something like this. It means a lot."

The Zags thus turned the tables on the Toreros, who won the 2008 final over Gonzaga and earned the automatic NCAA berth.

"The loss last year is what really drove us this season," Graves said. "We said it wasn't going to happen this time. We kept our eyes on the prize the whole time."

After winning the regular-season WCC title, the Zags had the No. 1 seed, while the Toreros, seeded sixth, were playing their fourth game in four days.

San Diego capped an 8-0 run early in the second half to take a 34-32 lead. But Gonzaga switched to a zone defense that paid immediate dividends, as the Toreros shot an air ball and had four turnovers on their next five possessions and scored just 11 points in a stretch of 13 minutes.

Heather Bowman led Gonzaga (26-6) with 16 points, while forward Kelly Bowen contributed 15 points and nine rebounds in a reserve role.

San Diego senior forward Kiva Herman, who played at Hudson's Bay High School in Vancouver, Wash., scored 23 points. She scored 95 points in four tournament games, surpassing the conference record.

Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or bwithers@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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