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September 16, 2014

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WCC Tournament:

St. Mary’s holds off Gonzaga in OT to win tourney

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Sam Morris

Saint Mary’s Gaels Matthew Dellavedova (L) looks to pass against the Gonzaga Bulldogs during the NCAA West Coast Conference Basketball Championship final in Las Vegas, Nevada March 5, 2012.

St. Mary's Defeats Gonzaga in Overtime

Saint Mary's Gaels' Brad Waldow (L) and teammates celebrate after beating the Gonzaga Bulldogs in 78-74 in overtime during the NCAA West Coast Conference Basketball Championship final in Las Vegas, Nevada March 5, 2012. Launch slideshow »

March can turn mad early in Las Vegas, as three college conferences venture here to crown their tournament champions. That was the case Monday night at Orleans Arena as St. Mary's won an overtime thriller over Gonzaga, 78-74, to claim the West Coast Conference tournament title and a berth in the NCAA Tournament.

The game matched the first and second seeds and teams that have met six times in the conference tournament title game. The lead changed hands 14 times and the game was tied nine times before St. Mary's won. It is the first time the Gaels have won the regular-season and tournament titles.

"It's a tremendous thing for our program, it's a beautiful thing," said St. Mary's Rob Jones, who finished with 18 points and 9 rebounds.

Fueled by a pro-Bulldog crowd of 6,826, Gonzaga (25-6) held an 8-point lead with 4:32 left in the first half. St. Mary's (27-5), led by guard Matthew Dellavedova, went on a 10-2 run and the first half ended 36-36.

Three-point shooting kept the Gaels in the game in the first half — the team hit 7-of-14 from long range. The Bulldogs, meanwhile, did most of their scoring inside.

St. Mary's started the second half with another 10-2 run, building leads of as much as eight points. Gonzaga kept the game within reach, but it seemed that every time the Bulldogs drew close enough to take a lead, Dellavedova, a junior from Australia, had an answer.

"He's a crafty player, he's really unpredictable," said Gonzaga guard Kevin Pangos, who had seven points on 3-of-18 shooting.

Gonzaga pulled within one with just over three minutes left. Again Dellavedova answered with a floater in the lane.

With 30 seconds left, St. Mary's had a 5-point lead and the game seemed in hand. But Gonzaga's Elias Harris' layup with 16 seconds left, followed by a Harris three-point shot with two seconds left tied it up. Harris led the Bulldogs with 22 points and 13 rebounds.

Dellavedova drove the length of the court, missing a short runner as time expired.

In overtime, Gonzaga took a quick lead before St. Mary's came back on a pair of layups. The game was tied with less than a minute left, when a missed 3-pointer by Pangos got batted toward midcourt. The ball was headed out of bounds as Dellavedova and Pangos sprinted toward it. Dellavedova maneuvered between Pangos and the ball, drawing the foul. He made both free throws. And St. Mary's would hit four more to put the game away.

Afterward, Dellavedova joked that playing Australian-rules football had helped him win the crucial scramble for the long rebound. He led the Gaels with 22 points and four assists and was named the tournament's most-valuable player.

"His competitiveness and leadership is what makes him special," St. Mary's coach Randy Bennett said. "It certainly isn't his jumping ability."

Later this week the Orleans Arena hosts the Western Athletic Conference tournament, while the Thomas & Mack will be home to the Mountain West Conference tournament.

Sun freelance writer Brad Slighting contributed to this report.

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