With the win, Saint Mary’s improves to 21-8, 11-7 WCC. The Gaels wrapped up the No. 4 seed in next week’s WCC Tournament and will face No. 5 seed San Diego on Friday in Las Vegas at the Orleans Arena.
The Gaels had the tall task of winning on the road at Portland on UP’s senior day, and legendary Pilots head coach Jim Sollars’ final WCC game in the Chiles Center.
“I was honored to be part of Jim Sollars’ last regular season home game,” said Paul Thomas. “Jim is a true ambassador to our game… we played well enough to win a road game. Our team stuck together when Portland crawled back into the game.”
Saint Mary’s was led by Jackie Nared with 27 points and five rebounds. The senior was playing her final WCC regular season game in front of her hometown as well, notching her game-high in points. She is now up to 582 points this season, just 10 shy of the SMC record held by Anja Bordt during the 1990-91 season.
Danielle Mauldin recorded her 22nd double-double of the year, pouring in 21 points with 13 rebounds. She was 7-for-13 from the field and 7-for-8 from the line.
Kate Gaze added 12 points and four assists and was 6-for-6 from the line. Gaze is now up to 89.6 percent on free-throws this season.
As a team, the Gaels were 25-of-28 (89.3 percent) from the foul stripe and improved as a team to 79.5 percent.
The Gaels got off to a strong start, much like the first time the teams played in McKeon Pavilion. After Gaze hit a pair of free-throws to give SMC a 12-4.
UP took the lead 18-17 at the 11:09 mark after a three-pointer. Nared scored in the paint to give SMC the lead right back, triggering an 8-0 run and the Gaels led 25-17 at the 7:39 mark.
SMC finished the half strong with an important basket and-one by Hayley Hendricksen to lead 38-30 at the half. Hendricksen finished with eight points off the bench.
Portland chipped away in the second half and pulled within 43-42 at the 10:56 mark. Saint Mary’s got the lead back up to 56-47 at the 8:07 mark after a three-pointer by Nared and free-throws by Gaze.
The Pilots did not go quietly, pulling within 67-65 with 3:10 remaining and got possession with the chance to tie or go ahead. SMC got the stop and scored on its next possession, a Gaze to Danielle Mauldin score and SMC led by four.
SMC sank free-throws the rest of the way to convert the 76-72 victory.