In a gritty, overtime thriller, the University of Portland Pilots defeated the San Diego Toreros 64-63 in the West Coast Conference championship to earn an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. It’s their first trip to the NCAA tournament since 1997 and their first WCC title since 1994.
Freshman forward Alex Fowler led the way for the Pilots with 21 points and 10 rebounds. Sophomore guard Haylee Andrews, who hit the game-winning shot on her birthday yesterday against the Gonzaga Bulldogs, put together another stellar performance with 18 points, six rebounds and seven assists.
Portland was swept by San Diego during the regular season, losing 74-55 on Jan. 2 and 62-58 on Feb. 1.
The Pilots were picked to finish last in the WCC in the preseason but finished the regular season fourth to earn the double-bye for the WCC tournament. They had to take down the Pacific Tigers — who they lost to twice in the regular season — in the quarterfinals and beat top-seeded Gonzaga on a last-second shot in the semifinals to make it to the championship.
The conference title adds just one more accolade to what has already been a historical season. Including the tournament, the Pilots have a 22-11 record, their best season since they went 19-9 in the 1997-98 season. Including the tournament, their 13-7 record is the best since the 1996-97 season.
Now, the Pilots will have to wait to find out where they are seeded and their opponent during the NCAA selection show on Monday, March 16. The first round of the tournament will take place on Friday, March 20 and Saturday, March 21.
Kyle Garcia is the sports editor for The Beacon. He can be reached at email@example.com.