It goes without saying that there have been some great games in the West Coast Conference over the past few years. There have been amazing comebacks, memorable buzzer beaters, and many other games that made me glad that I am a fan of this conference.
Here is my list of the top WCC games I have watched since the start of the 2009-10 season (accompanied by highlights or clips of the game).
5. Gonzaga @ Saint Mary’s, January 14, 2010 (Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=poJd4OukYkc)
What didn’t this game have? Well everything but a last second game winner, which is why it comes in at #5.
Dominating scoring performances on both sides, a near brawl between Omar Samhan and Robert Sacre after Rob fouled Omar, who went up for a fast break layup. The game was also a fast paced, high scoring game that was entertaining to watch.
Saint Mary’s got off to a hot start behind a three point barrage from then-freshman phenom Matthew Dellavedova, who hit four long range bombs in the first half. Gonzaga kept up and went into halftime with a big lead thanks to the play of Elias Harris, Matt Bouldin and Steven Gray.
It was Omar time in the second half, as Samhan could not be stopped; but neither could Elias Harris, who had multiple highlight dunks during the second half prompting commentator Stephen Bardo to bring out his well known “Bitter Beer Face” phrase. In fact it was likely this game that opened up the serious discussion about Elias being a high NBA Draft pick in 2010.
Whether it was Harris or Bouldin, Gonzaga always seemed to have an answer as Saint Mary’s tried to get back into the game. The Zags won the game by a final score of 89-82, and Harris finished with a career high 31 points to go along with Bouldin’s 22 points. Omar Samhan matched Harris with a fairly routine 31 points, accompanied by 23 points by the impressive freshman Dellavedova.
4. Saint Mary’s @ BYU, January 16, 2013 (Detailed Highlights: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l48F-vFYfR0)
The Marriott Center was rocking, Matt Carlino was hot early, and BYU looked like they were going to run away with the contest after storming out to a 20-4 lead in the first 8 minutes of the contest.
Saint Mary’s star Matthew Dellavedova struggled to score for most of the night, but the Gaels managed to find enough offense from Stephen Holt (22 points), James Walker III (13 points) and Mitchell Young (10 points) to stay close and crawl back into the game.
When Dellavedova started hitting shots late in the second half to go with some monster Stephen Holt 3 point bombs, it looked as though the Gaels were going to pull off the shocker upset in a hostile environment.
In the last six minutes of the game, Brock Zylstra hit a couple of enormous three pointers for BYU to keep the Cougar faithful alive.
When Tyler Haws hit what looked to be the game winning runner with 2.5 seconds left, we all thought the game was over. But Beau Levesque threw a terrific inbounds pass that led Dellavedova perfectly to half court, where he took one dribble and hit the 35 footer that will live on in WCC history.
3. Gonzaga vs. Saint Mary’s, WCC Tournament Championship, March 5, 2012 (Harris Shot: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jEStcMFEvD0)
Bragging rights were certainly on the line when the two teams faced off in this game.
Saint Mary’s was finally able to win the conference regular season title outright, but they were missing their defensive stopper and energizer Stephen Holt for this championship game. Gonzaga had two freshmen phenoms in the backcourt (Bell and Pangos) who made it clear that there would be no such thing as a rebuilding year for the Zags.
The game remained close throughout until the final minute, when Gaels guard Jorden Page stepped to the free throw line with 31 seconds left and a 4 point lead. Page hit one of two free throws to give the Gaels a 5 point lead, but then it was all Elias Harris from there for the Zags.
After one of many missed three pointers from Kevin Pangos on the night, Harris got an offensive rebound and putback to cut the Gael lead to just 3.
But guess who proceeded to turn the ball over? Matthew Dellavedova of all people. And guess who stole the ball from him? Mike Hart, surprise, surprise.
When Elias Harris hit the game tying three pointer to force overtime, the Orleans Arena Gonzaga fans were going nuts. But Saint Mary’s hit all of their free throws in overtime while the Zags struggled to score. And for the first time in the Randy Bennett era, Saint Mary’s had won both the regular season and tournament championship in the WCC.
2. Gonzaga @ Saint Mary’s, February 24, 2011 (3:07-3:17 mark http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ki9FzRNYnk)
Gonzaga’s streak of 10 consecutive conference regular season titles was on the line in this thriller.
The duo of Sam Dower and Elias Harris willed their way to combine for 28 points in the first half as the Zags withstood some hot shooting from the Aussie duo of Clint Steindl and Mickey McConnell to go with the inside play of Rob Jones.
The Zags led most of the second half thanks to some key baskets from Marquise Carter and Demetri Goodson. Down the stretch it was Matthew Dellavedova who nailed three huge key three point shots in the closing minutes to keep Saint Mary’s in the game, and actually give them a 76-73 lead in the final 90 seconds. But it was newcomer of the year Marquise Carter who tied the game with a long 3 pointer which eventually sent the game into overtime.
The Gaels had trouble scoring early on in overtime, and it was the Zags big men (Sacre and Dower) who hit some clutch free throws to ensure that Saint Mary’s never had a chance to win the game in overtime. The Zags won the game miraculously by a score of 89-85 and two days later would go on to clinch a share of the WCC regular season championship at San Diego.
This just might be the best game ever in the history of WCC basketball.
Not only did Tyler Haws score a career high 48 points for BYU and Bobby Sharp do the same with 27 points for Portland, but this triple overtime thriller was filled with clutch baskets left and right. After a Haws basket with 30 seconds left in regulation to send the game to overtime, BYU looked to be done after Bobby Sharp hit a three with 59 seconds left to put Portland up 5, followed by 2 Ryan Nicholas free throws to put the Pilots up 7 with 44 seconds left.
Down by 5 with 23 seconds left, Skyler Halford hit a three pointer to cut the Portland lead to 3. After Thomas van der Mars missed one of two free throws for Portland, Haws came down to hit yet another clutch shot, tying the game at 91 with a three pointer and sending the game to double overtime. In the second overtime, it looked as though Portland was completely out of it. Down 100-93 with 1:47 left, the Pilots were able to come back to tie the game thanks to 4 quick points from Ryan Nicholas and two three point bombs from Bobby Sharp. The first one he hit cut the BYU lead to one point, and after two BYU free throws, he hit another one of his 8 three pointers to send the game to triple overtime.
BYU never really had a chance in the third overtime, as they were never within a single possession with the ball in the closing minute. Portland left with arguably the best win of Eric Reveno’s tenure, beating the Cougars 114-110.