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GONZAGA UNIVERSITY NEWS FEATURE
Dale Goodwin, Director
Peter Tormey, Associate Director
|Men Capture WCC Tournament, NCAA Tournament berth|
By Dale Goodwin
When Raivio finally came on court to accept his award from WCC Commissioner Mike Gilleran, he was all smiles.
“This was the best win ever,” said Raivio, who grew up in Vancouver, Wash., just across the Columbia River from the site of the 2007 conference tournament. “All the guys on this team would do anything for each other. We are like brothers. This one means a lot.”
“Derek strapped us on his back and carried us tonight,” Gonzaga Coach Mark Few said. “Derek played the best he’s ever played in his biggest moment on the court.”
Raivio’s line included 28 points on 67 percent shooting from the field and a perfect 10-for-10 from the free-throw line. He added 4 assists, 3 steals and a pair of rebounds.
Many of the Zags’ friends and family members in the stands Monday night slowly funneled onto the court to share in this Gonzaga family celebration. Also honored as all-tournament selections following the game were junior forward David Pendergraft, who had 12 points, 7 rebounds and 3 steals in the title game, and sophomore guard/forward Micah Downs, who had 12 points and a team-high 10 rebounds Monday.
This championship was particularly significant for the Zags (23-10 on the season) as they had faced their share of adversity over the past month with the suspension of two players, an ankle injury to senior forward Sean Mallon and illness to several players.
Few didn’t mince any words.
“This is the most amazing win and accomplishment I have ever been a part of. These last three or four weeks have been particularly amazing. It just shows the remarkable character of these guys.”
Many pundits had written off the Zags, many of whom were forced into new roles in the last month. Gonzaga lost league contests to Loyola Marymount and Santa Clara down the stretch, and some observers became cynical about Gonzaga’s ability to return to the Big Dance. But adversity seemed to forge a renewed commitment to the things that the Gonzaga program was built upon – hard work, teamwork, sound decision-making and a relentless spirit. It was all on display Monday night in the championship game.
The only sad part was to see longtime Santa Clara Coach Dick Davey coach his team for perhaps the last time.
“It has been an honor to compete against a guy like Dick Davey,” Few said after the game. “He has been a great coach. I think the world of him. I hope to see him back in coaching soon.”
Meanwhile, Gonzaga fans took advantage of the sunny, 65-degree day in Portland to get out and about. No doubt there was a spike at area shopping malls and golf courses. This beautiful day rivaled some great tournament days of recent past in San Diego and Santa Clara. By the way, the league announced Sunday that the 2008 tournament will return to San Diego, March 6-10.
Coach Few will give his players a little time off before they start preparing for the school’s 10th NCAA tournament appearance, ninth in a row, and eighth under Few. Selection Sunday is March 11. First-round sites in the men’s tournament include Spokane, Sacramento, Calif., Chicago, New Orleans, Columbus, Ohio, Lexington, Ken., Winston-Salem, N.C., and Buffalo, N.Y.
Gonzaga’s women (24-9) also captured their WCC Tournament championship and will advance to the Dance for the first time in school history.
“We’ll keep the players running and shooting and lifting this week to keep them in game shape,” said seventh-year Zag Coach Kelly Graves. “But we will start preparing in earnest on Sunday once we know who we are playing and where we are going.”
The women’s first-round sites are at Stanford, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Austin, Texas, East Lansing, Mich., Pittsburgh, Hartford, Conn., and Raleigh, N.C.