Zags rout Loyola Marymount in WCC title game

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Gonzaga had too many offensive weapons for Loyola Marymount and the rest of the WCC conference to overcome, and now the Bulldogs are going to the NCAA Tournament for the first time.

The top-seeded Bulldogs had a different leading scorer in each of their three games in this week's conference tournament. It was Stephanie Hawk's turn Sunday, when she scored 17 points and grabbed a team-high 12 rebounds to lead Gonzaga to a 64-47 victory over Loyola Marymount in the tournament final.

Gonzaga (24-9) earned its first WCC tournament title and an automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament with its ninth consecutive victory.

During the WCC tournament, the Bulldogs showed they could play virtually any style and it really didn't matter who played a starring role.

"I'm really proud of our basketball team," Gonzaga coach Kelly Graves said. "We played a style that we're not always comfortable with -- a knockdown, drag-out, tough battle. We showed we can play that way. If you punch us in the nose, we'll punch back."

The Bulldogs used the 6-foot-3 Hawk in the low-post position in the game's opening minutes. But Hawk, who was the WCC's co-player of the year during the regular season, had her hands full with Loyola's Ashlee Dunlap, a physical inside player.

During those early minutes, the third-seeded Lions (19-12) matched Gonzaga basket for basket and even led by a point on a couple of occasions. Then, Graves decided to move Hawk to top of the key, where she seems to be at her best.

That move led to two open outside jumpers, including a 3-pointer, that Hawk made. It also opened up the inside for Gonzaga forward Heather Bowman, who finished the game with 14 points and wound up being named the tournament MVP.

"Maybe all those times Hawk yelled at me paid off," Bowman said of her MVP award. "It was unexpected and it felt good, but it felt better to win this tournament."

Hawk agreed.

"If you win, you get an automatic bid to the tournament. You don't want to leave yourself up to any chances with the NCAA Tournament."

The Bulldogs led the final 29 minutes, but it was a 17-4 run late in the first half that gave the Zags the cushion they needed. They led 34-19 at intermission after shooting 70 percent in the first half. Hawk and Bowman went a combined 8-for-10 in the half and had 17 points between them.

"A team attack is much more effective than just having one player score all of the points," Hawk said. "We had so many weapons that we could go to and the other teams really struggled with that."

Gonzaga pushed its lead to 54-36 with 7 minutes left in the second half, but the Bulldogs then went scoreless for the next 4 1/2 minutes. That helped the Lions close the deficit to 54-45.

But the Zags settled down and scored 10 of the game's last 12 points. Hawk, who had moved back inside by then, had four points during that final run.

"I don't bang a lot inside. So I like to go outside take the bigger girls off the drive," Hawk said.

Bowman, who was Gonzaga's leading scorer during the tournament, and teammate Jami Bjorklund, who had 20 points in a semifinal win over San Francisco, joined Hawk on the all-tournament team. Dunlap, who led the Lions with 10 points and 13 rebounds, also made the team. The remaining all-tourney selection went to Teiosha George of Pepperdine.