Jill Barta Leads Gonzaga To #WCChoops Title - Mar 11, 2017
She might not like or agree with the assertion, but Jill Barta (6'3''-F) owned this championship game. Everyone else was just paying rent. Especially Saint Mary's, a team from a region known for high rents. In the end, the Gaels were left with their pockets turned inside out and their wallets empty, tapped out. Barta, Gonzaga's sweet-shooting sophomore forward, scored a WCC women's tournament single-game record as she elegantly poured in 37 points to power the Zags to an 86-75 victory over Saint Mary's in the championship game on Tuesday at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas. There was no other choice for Most Outstanding Player than Barta, who was joined on the All-Tournament team by fellow Zags Laura Stockton and Kiara Kudron (6'2''-F). Gaels Devyn Galland and Sydney Raggio (6'1''-F) completed the all-tourney team. Gracious in defeat, Saint Mary's coach Paul Thomas said of the 6-foot-3 Barta, 'The intent is not to let her score. She gets to her sweet spot and does a really good job. She knows her range. She runs the floor. They did a good job of giving her the ball where she wanted it. She was feeling it.'' Barta was feeling it in the first half, when she had 22 points and her team had a 53-32 lead at the break, and again early in the fourth period when her back-to-back 3-point shots kept the Gaels at bay and gave the Zags a 72-57 lead with 8:07 to play. Earlier, Saint Mary's had fought back to within 55-49 with less than five minutes to go in the third period but seconds later, a Barta bomb from behind the arc made it 58-49. Not only was Barta prolific, she was also timely with her shots. Whenever the Zags needed her, she was there, firing off shot after shot with what might be the purest shooting form in the conference. 'It was just one of those nights where we work as a team,'' Barta said. 'I just took the shots that were there for me.'' There's more to it than that, obviously. Barta put in the time honing her game while growing up in tiny Fairfield, MT., helping her Class B high school, with its 108 students, win four straight state titles. Once she got to Gonzaga, Barta worked on her technique with assistant coach Craig Fortier , husband of Zags head coach Lisa Mispley Fortier . 'It's working with great coaches,'' Barta said. 'Her husband Craig worked with me on my shot. I thank them a lot.'' Chimed in Lisa Mispley Fortier , 'Don't give Craig too much credit. She put in a lot of work before she got here.'' The work that Barta put in on Tuesday in the championship game looked effortless, whether she was taking an assist and scoring close to the basket or finding her 'sweet spot'' for three-balls. For the game Barta hit on 12 of 19 shots, including 5 of 8 from 3-point range, and was a perfect 8-for-8 from the free throw line. While Barta's 37 points established a WCC Tournament single-game record, she fell two points shy of breaking Gonzaga's school record of 38 by Amy Simpson from 1983. 'It's pretty impressive,'' Lisa Mispley Fortier said. 'I don't know if we've had anybody score 37 or not. We had a good balance (too). Kiara and Wolfram were getting good looks.'' In supporting roles, forwards Kiara Kudron (6'2''-F) and Emma Wolfram (6'5''-C-95) scored 14 and 10 points, respectively, and combined for 16 rebounds against a stout Saint Mary's rebounding team. The Zags won that battle, too, with a 38-29 edge on the boards. After falling behind 32-15 after the first period and 53-32 at halftime, the Gaels mounted a comeback in the third period and outscored Gonzaga in that 10-minute stretch 23-13. But always, there was Barta with a shot to repel the Huns -- or Gaels, in this case. 'I'm really happy to see these numbers that we rebounded with Saint Mary's,'' Fortier said. 'We knew they weren't going to go lightly into the night if we were soft inside. We were able to create offense with our defense. We came down here to win three games. Saint Mary's is never easy.'' At 26-6, the WCC champion Zags will now move on to the NCAA Tournament. Saint Mary's has a 20-12 record and will probably have to settle for something less than the NCAA tourney, according to Thomas. 'One hundred percent we'll be playing,'' Thomas said. 'We're probably going to be playing in the tournament that doesn't start with 'N' and end with 'A.' We're going to be playing in the post-season. I think we've done quite enough. We've improved as each week has gone by.'' As for Gonzaga's outlook Kudron said, 'This year it's going to feel good going back. We're really excited to go to the NCAAs and hopefully we'll go a long way.''
WCC Tournament Final: Gonzaga - Saint Mary's 86-75 WCC Tournament Semifinals: Gonzaga - San Francisco 77-46 Saint Mary's - BYU 59-49
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