By Dean Boerner | Sports Editor
Thanks to some crucial late-game heroics on Thursday and Saturday night, the Gaels left McKeon Pavilion on Saturday winners of four straight and six of their last seven. They used a last-second shot Thursday night to take down USF 64-62 and stingy defense Saturday night to defeat Santa Clara. When all the dust had settled, the Gaels found themselves tied for second place in the West Coast Conference with BYU and behind first-place Gonzaga by just one game.
On Thursday, Saint Mary’s (12-9, 7-3 WCC) didn’t fail to make things as interesting as possible. With a narrow but seemingly safe 62-58 lead over the Dons and twenty seconds left to play, the Gaels gifted USF with a four-point play opportunity when Rachel Howard was knocked down on a made three-point basket. She went on to hit the free throw for her game-high 26th point, and suddenly, with a tie game, things looked much more precarious for Saint Mary’s.
Nevertheless, the Gaels had the ball for the last shot, and they took advantage of it. With just three seconds left, Stella Beck entered a crowded lane and fired a pass to Carly Turner, who took one dribble and let fly a confident 18-foot jump-shot that rimmed in with 0.4 seconds left. Turner’s clutch jumper left no time for the Dons to respond and secured a Saint Mary’s victory.
The Gaels dominated on the glass throughout Thursday’s contest, outrebounding the Dons 44-27 and outscoring them in second-chance points 14-4. Senior guard Shannon Mauldin led Saint Mary’s with 14 points. Stella Beck and Devon Brookshire were close behind with 12 points and ten points, respectively, while Sydney Raggio led all players with nine rebounds for Saint Mary’s.
The Gaels overcame a brutal first quarter in which they committed eight turnovers (and surrendered eight points off those turnovers) and were outscored 18-13. They bounced back in the second quarter by scoring 20 points to just nine for the Dons and earning a 33-27 halftime lead.
Two days later, Saint Mary’s hosted a good Broncos team coming off a heartbreaking double overtime loss at BYU two days prior.
With the game deadlocked at 53-53 and a little over a minute to play, Thursday’s leading scorer for Saint Mary’s Shannon Mauldin stripped a Santa Clara player to force a turnover. On the ensuing trip down, she penetrated Santa Clara’s 2-3 zone and banked home a floater for what turned out to be yet another game-winner for a surging Saint Mary’s squad.
Santa Clara ended up with a pretty good opportunity to tie or take the lead on the game’s final possession, but a Broncos three-point attempt bounced off the rim and was recovered on the floor by a diving Mauldin as time expired.
In the first quarter, the Gaels looked to be well on their way to a runaway victory. They began the game with a 16-3 run and ended the first frame leading 19-9. However, in the third quarter, the tables turned, as the Broncos outscored Saint Mary’s 19-9 and started the fourth quarter leading 47-43. But in a sluggish fourth quarter, the Gaels ended up prevailing by holding Santa Clara to just six points in the frame while scoring 12.
Mauldin ended up leading Saint Mary’s with 13 points while also adding six rebounds and two assists. Raggio posted a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds, and Turner narrowly missed one of her own by scoring nine points and grabbing nine rebounds.
Emily Wolph led all scorers with 18 points for a Broncos team now on a four-game skid and 4-6 in conference play.
This week, the second-place Gaels continue their homestand with two more games at McKeon Pavilion. They play Pacific on Thursday and San Diego Saturday afternoon.