Though they did not lead for 95% of the game, Tennessee prevailed in the end, ending Gonzaga’s run in the NCAA Women’s Tournament with a 73-69 overtime victory.
Mar 28, 2015; Spokane, WA, USA; Tennessee Lady Volunteers guard Jaime Nared (31) goes up for a shot against Gonzaga Bulldogs forward Sunny Greinacher (14) during the second half in the semifinals of the Spokane regional of the women
Though Gonzaga led by as much as 17 points in the second half, Tennessee’s rugged defense combined with a Gonzaga scoring drought beginning with 4:44 left in the game allowed Tennessee to score 15 consecutive points to take the lead with 1:30 left in regulation. With the score tied at 61-61, Gonzaga’s Georgia Stirton fouled Jordan Reynolds allowing Tennessee to take a one point lead 62-61 after Reynolds hit her free throw.
Emma Wolfram responded to hit a layup allowing Gonzaga to pull ahead by one point 63-62 with 41 seconds left. Jordan Reynolds returned to the free throw line again, hitting one shot, then missing the second shot tying the game at 63-63. Gonzaga was unable to respond with a game winning basket sending the game into overtime. Tennessee went 10-10 on free throws in OT kept the Lady Volunteers in the lead even when Gonzaga cut the lead to 1 point with 1:38 remaining.
Rebounding was one of the many keys that allowed Gonzaga to stay ahead of Tennessee. Senior Sunny Greinacher led Gonzaga with a double-double posting 24 points and 11 rebounds. Keani Albanez, another Gonzaga senior, finished with 20 points and 5 assists. Shelby Cheslek had 7 points and 6 rebounds. Elle Tinkle added 7 points and 7 rebounds. Breakout freshman Emma Wolfram tallied 8 points and 6 rebounds.
Even the Tennessee marching band repeatedly playing the school’s fight song “Rocky Top Tennessee” couldn’t diminish the volume of the cheering from the pro-Gonzaga crowd that filled the Spokane Arena, the host venue that is less than a mile from the Gonzaga campus.
More from 2015 NCAA Tournament
- Looking Back on Gonzaga’s Season
- West Coast Convo Bracketology Competition Results
- Playing “What if….?” With Gonzaga and the NCAA Tournament
- West Coast Convo Writers Bracketology Competition Update
- NCAA Elite Eight Recap: Gonzaga Ends Historic Season Against Duke
At the end of the game, the Gonzaga players remained on the court to give the disappointed crowd a round of applause to thank them for their unwavering support during the game and throughout the season. Head Coach Lisa Fortier was “very proud of the way that they battled” and of her seniors Greinacher, Albanez, Lindsey Sherbert, and Laura Sullivan.
Cierra Burdick led Tennessee with 22 points and 15 rebounds. Ariel Massengale had 15 points. Jordan Reynolds finished with 12 points and 7 rebounds.
Senior Ariel Massengale was one of the last players recruited by Head Coach Emeritus Pat Summitt to play for Tennessee, a group that includes Seniors Isabelle Harrison and Burdick.
Cierra Burdick remarked that “nothing tops this (comeback).” Her description of the game summed it up nicely: “no matter how many punches you throw at us, we’re going to continue to keep fighting and we never thought we were out of this game. That’s just Tennessee basketball.”
Tennessee will play Maryland on Monday in the Spokane Regional Final. The winner of that game will travel to Tampa Bay, Florida to play in the Final Four.