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WBK | 2017-18 Season Countdown: #10

The countdown to the 2017-18 season begins with No. 10 - A look back at 10 memories and moments from 2016-17
Oct. 31, 2017 counts down to Opening Day of the 2017-18 Women’s Basketball Season on Nov. 10 with a selection of 10 stories to prepare fans for another year of Gaels basketball

MORAGA, Calif. — The 2016-17 Saint Mary’s women’s basketball season had plenty of memorable moments, but our first story of the countdown to 2017-18 only has room for 10. Refresh your memory with 10 moments and memories from the last Gaels campaign:


The Gaels appeared in the West Coast Conference Tournament championship game on March 6 for the first time in six years, getting through rival Santa Clara and BYU in the quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively, to land in a “Round 3” matchup vs. regular season champion Gonzaga. The Bulldogs had already narrowly defeated SMC twice in January and February. But this time Gonzaga got out to a 25-point second-half lead and held off a Saint Mary’s run that cut it to just seven, securing the 2016-17 WCC Tournament title in an 86-75 win in Las Vegas.


The world tried its darndest to stop Stella Beck on Feb. 4 when the Gaels hosted San Diego, but the star junior wasn’t having any of it. Beck, already out the previous two games due to injury, was hit in the mouth by a basketball during warm-ups – so badly that it required treatment before tip-off. But did that faze her? NO. Instead, the guard from New Zealand went off for a career-high 28 points, half of which came during an overwhelming 33-8 run by the Gaels that powered the team past a 51-39 second-half deficit. She also had a team-high eight rebounds in the game to go with two assists and a steal.


It was only fitting that one of the Gaels’ three Australians made a big play on Australian Day 2016. Carly Turner hit a 17-foot jumper with just 0.4 seconds left on the clock, and Saint Mary’s beat rival San Francisco in thrilling fashion, 64-62, at the War Memorial Gym at Sobrato Center on Jan. 26. The game-winning shot was a redeeming one for Turner, who just seconds before had committed a foul on USF’s Rachel Howard as she was shooting a 3-pointer. Howard’s trey went in, and she made her subsequent free throw to erase what had appeared to be a safe four-point lead for the Gaels with 18.3 seconds left.


A 75-65 victory over visiting Northern Colorado on Dec. 16 not only gave the Gaels their first home victory of the year, but also handed head coach Paul Thomas his 200th win at the helm of the program. “It means that we’ve had a lot of good players,” said Thomas about the significance of the milestone victory. “We’ve had a lot of good players that have played well together and play for the program, and I’m most proud of that.”


Fans looking for exciting finishes need look no further than Saint Mary’s last season. The Gaels were involved in so many buzzer-beating games in 2016-17, it’s hard to keep track. SMC had five games decided by a single shot in the final seconds last year. Unfortunately, they were 1-4 in those games, the lone victory coming on Turner’s jumper at San Francisco on Jan. 26. Beck had two chances at a game-winning layup versus Utah on Nov. 26 but missed them both. UC Davis hit a buzzer-beater on Dec. 12 to beat the Gaels, and San Diego did the same on New Year’s Eve. Finally, Gonzaga overcame a late deficit with a game-winning jumper inside 10 seconds left on Feb. 11.


Five players in double figures and a huge third quarter on Jan. 13 led Saint Mary’s to its largest offensive output of the season as the Gaels blew out Portland 92-76 at McKeon Pavilion. SMC scored 34 points in the third quarter alone. Four of the Gaels’ five starters finished with double-digit points. Nine different Gaels scored at least two points and grabbed at least one rebound.
Turner and Beck led Saint Mary’s with 19 points each. Sydney Raggio and Megan McKay both finished with 11. Devon Brookshire had 12 points and four rebounds off the bench. Jasmine Forcadilla was also impressive off the bench with eight points, three rebounds and a team-high seven assists.


The Gaels gave themselves a big boost midway through the year when they went on a seven-game winning streak, part of a stretch in when they won nine of 10 from Jan. 7 to Feb. 9. The only thing keeping it from being a 10 or 11-game winning streak was two narrow defeats at the hands of Gonzaga. The Gaels outscored their opponents by more than nine points per game during their seven-game streak, including a 21-point blowout of Pepperdine on the road (Jan. 21) and double-digit victories over San Diego (Feb. 4) and Portland (Feb. 9).


Saint Mary’s traveled over 2,600 miles in just the second weekend of the year to face two opponents in the City of Boston. The Gaels would sweep their trip to Beantown, dominating Northeastern 77-53 on Nov. 18 and downing Atlantic Coast Conference member Boston College, 62-54, on Nov. 20. SMC outrebounded both opponents, logging 45 and 37 boards, respectively. It was especially dominant against the Huskies, leading by at least 20 points for the entire fourth quarter and final two minutes of the third.


Megan McKay lived in the paint last season and made it worth her time. She won the pseudo WCC “Shooting Champion” trophy by leading the conference with a 55.7 percent field goal percentage. Her own teammate, Beck, was behind her at 54.6 percent. And in the rare occasion that McKay missed, she grabbed her own offensive rebound more than anyone else in the conference. McKay led the WCC with 107 offensive rebounds, 3.2 per game.


The Gaels continued their home dominance in 2016-17, posting a .643 winning percentage (9-5). Even with defeats factored in, SMC still outscored its opponents by an average of 5.3 points per game at home. The Gaels have won at least nine home games for eight consecutive years. They have posted no lower than a .643 home winning percentage for 10 straight seasons (since 2007-08). SMC has not had a home record below .500 in nearly three decades, a streak that started 29 years ago with a 10-4 home mark in 1988-89.



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