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Gay Leads Lions to Victory

March 06, 2004|Rob Fernas | Times Staff Writer

SANTA CLARA — Sherman Gay turned in a performance reminiscent of Hank Gathers on Friday night, and Loyola Marymount reaped the reward.

Gay, a senior forward, had 30 points and 15 rebounds, the best of his career in both categories, and led a second-half comeback that carried the Lions to an 82-77 victory over Portland in the first round of the West Coast Conference tournament before 4,500 at the Leavey Center.

It was the first time a Loyola Marymount player scored at least 30 points in a game since 1998. It also was the first time the Lions, who beat Portland in the first round last season, have won WCC tournament games in successive seasons since 1989 and 1990, when the late Gathers was their star.

"I just go out and play my hardest, and good things happen," Gay said. "My teammates got me the ball and I made good shots."

Seventh-seeded Loyola Marymount (15-13) plays third-seeded Pepperdine (14-15) in the quarterfinals at 6 tonight. The Lions were pleased to get a chance to end their 12-game losing streak to their cross-town rival.

"Now we've got another shot," said guard Charles Brown, who had 17 points and five assists.

Gay helped give the Lions that opportunity by scoring seven points during a 15-3 run in the last four minutes, erasing a five-point deficit. His strong inside play contributed to three Portland forwards fouling out during that stretch.

"He had a monster game," Coach Steve Aggers said. "All-league players elevate their game when the best is needed, and he did that."

After trailing by as many as 11 in the second half, Loyola Marymount took the lead for good, 73-72, on Gay's free throw with 1:34 to play. Gay missed the second attempt, but teammate Dustin Brown batted the rebound out to Lion guard Wes Wardrop, who made a three-point basket for a 76-72 lead.

The Lions secured the victory by making six of eight free throws in the last 31 seconds. They limited the Pilots to seven-of-28 shooting in the second half and held them without a field goal for more than four minutes late in the game.

"We just played harder in the second half," said Aggers, whose team trailed, 44-35, at halftime. "We picked up our intensity level. Our defense is what started it."

Sophomore guard Eugene "Pooh" Jeter had 19 points for Portland (11-17), which beat Loyola Marymount twice this season.

Also Friday, Santa Clara defeated San Diego, 82-48.

The Broncos (15-15) took a 28-2 lead on their way to routing last year's tournament champion. San Diego (4-26) finished 0-19 in games away from home this season.

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