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Originally published Tuesday, March 24, 2009 at 12:00 AM

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Future looks very bright for Zags women

Gonzaga players were tearful after their close loss to fourth-seeded Pittsburgh in the second round of the NCAA women's basketball tournament...

Seattle Times staff reporter

Gonzaga players were tearful after their close loss to fourth-seeded Pittsburgh in the second round of the NCAA women's basketball tournament Monday night at Edmundson Pavilion. But a look at next year's roster should bring a quick smile.

Barring injury, the Zags should be back in the NCAA tournament, losing one senior starter in Jami Schaefer and a senior reserve in guard Amanda Brown. The Bulldogs will add scoring in Washington transfer Katelan Redmon and Bainbridge product Brittany Gray.

"I don't think people realize how young this group is," said Gonzaga coach Kelly Graves, whose point guard is a sophomore and leading scorer is a junior. "With the group we have coming and the experience we have coming back, I just think that the future is really bright.

"This is something that we're going to look back and say, 'You know, this is kind of where it all started.' We just hope to continue to build and build."

Memorable run

The tournament run didn't last very long for the 12th-seeded Zags, but the final four minutes of the first half of Monday's game belongs on a highlight reel.

Pitt was leading 22-16 and looking as if it were going to run away with the game. Instead, the Bulldogs set off on a spirited rally that started with a steal by guard Courtney Vandersloot, who converted it into a fastbreak layin.

Pitt responded with a jumper, but then Heather Bowman was fouled. She made the ensuing free throws, then gave up an open look to the post on the next possession.

To cap the comeback, Vandersloot tipped a pass to Janelle Bekkering, who raced down the court for a leaning layup that tied the score at 24 with one second left on the clock. As the buzzer sounded, Gonzaga left the court to cheers.

Heated match

Things got heated early in the second half, when Zags forward Vivian Frieson blocked a Pitt shot and the Panthers' Shayla Scott responded by attempting to do the same against Bekkering. She and Scott got into each other's faces and had to be separated by officials, who gave both a technical.

"I didn't say anything," Bekkering said with a smirk.

Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or jevans@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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