Loyola Marymount's conference title hopes may have crumbled Friday when Gonzaga guard Lennie Parham drove the length of the court and scored on a three-point play with one second left to give Gonzaga an 81-79 victory.
The loss, before 1,550 at Gersten Pavilion, dropped Loyola a game behind Pepperdine in the West Coast Athletic Conference race with an 8-2 record. The Lions are 16-8 overall. Pepperdine is 9-1 and plays Gonzaga tonight.
The Gonzaga victory was improbable on a number of levels:
--The Bulldogs are 12-12 overall and 5-5 in the WCAC and entered the game with a 1-6 road mark.
--Parham is a walk-on guard who averages two points. His final points gave him 14 for the game. Gonzaga's leading scorer was forward Mike Champion, with 19 points. Champion averages 5.9.
--In a seesaw exchange, Loyola took its last lead with seven seconds left, 79-78, and appeared to be in command.
However, Gonzaga in-bounded the ball and Parham went baseline to baseline, hitting a leaning jumper from the right of the basket while being fouled by Keith Smith. The shot swished, and Parham added the free throw.
Parham, a sophomore who played at Spokane Junior College last year, hit 6 of 9 shots and added 6 assists. He said it was the first game-winning shot of his career.
Loyola broke out to a quick 9-4 lead, but Gonzaga controlled much of the first half, with Champion scoring 13 points in the first 12 minutes. The Bulldogs led at the half, 41-39.
They stretched the lead to 53-44 before Loyola hit its stride, running off an 18-4 spurt to take a 62-57 lead with 9:43 left. The sparks were supplied by center Vic Lazzeretti, who played his best game of the season with 9 points and 8 rebounds, forward Mike Yoest, who had 18 points, and guard Enoc Simmons, who had 10 points.
Yoest hit three key baskets down the stretch and made a key steal that led to a Simmons dunk, giving Loyola a 77-76 lead with 1:05 left.
Parham answered with a jumper as the shot clock ran out to put Gonzaga ahead by a point with 16 seconds left. Yoest hit the free throws that gave Loyola its last lead with seven second remaining.
Forrest McKenzie led both teams with 23 points and a career-high 14 rebounds. However, Keith Smith, playing on a tender ankle, had 5 points, all in the first half, and acted as playmaker with 11 assists.
Gonzaga's leading scorer, Jeff Condill, was held to nine shots and 10 points.
"That's what we get for playing their leading scorers well," Loyola Coach Paul Westhead said ruefully.
Loyola has four games left, including tonight's home finale against Portland.
"There's no discussion. Go out and win, and play the next one and win," Westhead said. "Now we must win every game, including Pepperdine. We're a team with one option."