LAS VEGAS – Jill Barta scored a West Coast Conference tournament-record 37 points to help lead top-seeded Gonzaga to an 86-75 win over Saint Mary’s in the women’s basketball conference championship game Tuesday.
The win gives Gonzaga an automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament, which begins March 17.
Barta, the former Fairfield High School star, made 12-of-19 field goals, including 5-of-8 3-pointers, during her record-setting performance. She also made all eight of her free throw attempts. As a team, the Bulldogs made 14-of-15 free throws.
Elle Tinkle, who played at Missoula Big Sky High School, added nine points and four rebounds for Gonzaga.
The Bulldogs jumped to an early double-digit advantage, leading 32-15 at the end of the first quarter. Barta scored 13 points in the opening frame and had 22 points by halftime. Gonzaga led by 21 points at the break.
Saint Mary’s cut the lead to 11 points going to the fourth, but Barta, who was named the tournament MVP, and the Zags iced the game away to clinch their seventh WCC championship.
Barta’s 37 points are one shy of the single-game program record set by Amy Simpson in 1983. During the game, Barta, a redshirt sophomore, also surpassed the 1,000-point mark for her career.
The NCAA Tournament bracket will be announced on March 13.