LAS VEGAS (ABC4 Sports) – The BYU women’s basketball team was probably headed to the NCAA Tournament anyway, but the Cougars wanted to erase any doubt.
Brenna Chase scored 25 points, Shaylee Gonzales added 20 and Brigham Young beat No. 12 Gonzaga 82-68 on Tuesday to win its third West Coast Conference tournament title for the third time.
The Cougars earn the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in three years.
“When it’s going it, it’s going in,” said Chase, who made 7 of 12 from beyond the arc. “You just kind of know. It’s not something that happens too often, so we like when it does.”
“This was just one of those games that went our way a little bit,” said head coach Jeff Judkins. “I’m so proud of my team because they played their hearts out, they weren’t afraid to make the play, they weren’t afraid for the challenge.”
The second-seeded Cougars (25-6) handed Gonzaga its two WCC losses in two close regular-season meetings and tried turning the third game into a rout with a dominating second quarter.
BYU scored the first 16 points of the second to build 12-point lead and went up by 16 early in the third quarter.
The two-time defending tournament champion Bulldogs (28-4) rallied late in the third to pull within seven, but missed their first 12 shots of the fourth to end any chance of a three-peat.
Zykera Rice led top-seeded Gonzaga with 25 points.
Paisley Johnson added 19 points, Sara Hamson blocked four shots and BYU went 13 for 25 from the 3-point arc to reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2016.
BYU won the two regular-season meetings, both by two points.
The Cougars rallied from a 12-point deficit to win 70-68 at home and Hamson blocked two shots in the final minutes in a 66-64 home win.
BYU beat Pepperdine 68-63 in the WCC Tournament semifinals and Gonzaga needed two overtimes to beat Saint Mary’s, winning 78-77 on Rice’s buzzer-beating shot.
Rice dominated early in round 3, scoring 10 points in the first quarter to help the Zags build a 23-19 lead.
BYU took control by dominating defensively in the second quarter.
Gonzaga missed its first nine shots and went 1 for 11 in the period as the Cougars took a 42-30 lead into halftime.
BYU stretched the lead 55-39, but Gonzaga made a late run, pulling within 63-57 after Judkins was called for a technical foul and Chandler Smith hit two free throws.
But the Cougars stretched the lead back to 12 early in the fourth and Gonzaga shot 2 for 15 in the quarter.
The Cougars will learn their NCAA Tournament fate on Monday.