Las Vegas, NV – No. 2 seed Saint Mary’s advanced to the championship game of the 2010 Zappos.com West Coast Conference Championships following a 69-55 win over the No. 3 seeded Portland Pilots. Four Gaels scored in double figures, with Omar Samhan leading the way with his 19th double-double of the season with 16 points and 13 rebounds.
Saint Mary’s advances to the championship game of the WCC Tournament for the second straight year, and will face the top-seeded and No. 14 ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs. It marks the fourth time in Randy Bennett’s nine years with the Gaels, that he's led the team to the championship game, which also include appearances game in 2004 and 2005.
First team All-WCC guard Mickey McConnell had 16 points, to go along with four assists, as he hit 7-of-8 shots from the floor and 2-of-3 from 3-point land. Honorable Mention All-WCC selection and WCC All-Freshman Team honoree, Matthew Dellavedova added 16 points, going 7-of-8 from the free throw line.
Jorden Page came off the bench to provide a spark for the Gaels, not only on the stat sheet by defensively, as he helped hold Portland’s Jared Stohl to just four points, all coming from the free throw line. Page had a career-high 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting and 2-of-3 shooting from beyond the arc, in 32 minutes coming off the bench.
Saint Mary’s held the Pilots to 28.8 percent shooting for the game, and after the pilots started off 5-for-9, Portland made just 10-of-43 shots (23.2 percent) the final 36 minutes of the game, including 20.8 percent (5-24) in the second half.
On the offensive side of the ball, Saint Mary’s shot 55.6 percent overall, while knocking down 7-of-17 shots from beyond the arc. SMC also outrebounded the Pilots 37-25, as Ben Allen finished the game with 11 rebounds for the Gaels.
The Gaels got he first basket of the game on a three by Dellavedova, but the Pilots held a 12-9 lead at the 14:40 mark. Portland opened the game by making five of their its first nine shots, but finished the half shooting just 10-of-28 overall, making just 5-of-19 shots the final 14:41, to shoot 35.7 percent and just 1-for-4 from 3-point land.
After the 12-9 lead by the Pilots, an in-your-face 3-pointer by McConnell over T.J. Campbell sparked an 11-0 run over the next four minutes, that had the Gaels leading 20-12 at the midway point of the half. The SMC-run continued, as the Gaels outscored the Pilots 10-4 over the next 3:20 to take a 30-16 lead following a lay-up by Samhan with 6:40 on the clock.
Portland outscored SMC 10-7 over the final 6:40 of the half to cut the Gaels’ lead to 37-26 at the break. Samhan was one rebound shy of a double-double at halftime, as he led all players with 10 points and nine rebounds.
McConnell finished the half with nine points and Dellavedova had eight. SMC had eight points off the bench in the first half, with seven coming from Jorden Page.
Portland opened the second half with a 6-0 run to cut SMC’s lead to 37-32, but the Gaels weathered the storm, and after not hitting a shot from the floor the first 3:45 of the half, Saint Mary’s went on a 10-2 run over the next four minutes to extend its lead to 50-36 when Dellavedova hit Samhan cutting to the basket for an easy lay-up at the 12:05 mark.
With the Gaels leading 52-40, the Gaels used a 9-0 run to extend their lead to 21 points (61-40) as McConnell hit another long three from the wing and a fast break dunk by Page on the next possession ignited the crowd and Saint Mary’s.
The Saint Mary’s lead reached as many as 24 points (27-43) following three free throws by Dellavedova with 6:13 left on the clock.
Saint Mary’s will play No. 14 ranked, and top seed in the WCC Tournament on Monday, March 8 at 6 p.m. from the Orleans Arena, and will be televised on ESPN.