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Gonzaga guard Jill Townsend named WCC player of the year

UPDATED: Tue., March 3, 2020

Jill Townsend did a little of everything for the Gonzaga women this year, and that meant a lot during one of the most successful seasons in school history.

That didn’t go unnoticed by the coaches of the West Coast Conference, who on Tuesday named Townsend the conference’s player of the year.

Townsend didn’t rank in the WCC’s top 10 in scoring or rebounding, but she was recognized as the best player on a team that won the conference by four games and is on the verge of one of the greatest seasons in WCC history.

Now the Zags are 28-2 overall, and 17-1 in the WCC heading into the conference tournament this weekend in Las Vegas.

“I had no expectations, it wasn’t even on my radar,” Townsend said before practice Tuesday. “It’s a pretty cool honor, and something I will hold onto the rest of my life.”

She also was the glue holding the 12th-ranked Zags together after a season-ending injury to Katie Campbell – coincidentally after Townsend dealt with a major injury of her own last spring.

“It’s been an inspiration to a lot of people,” GU head coach Lisa Fortier said Tuesday. “People were asking me if she was even going to play this year, so that’s a testament to how hard she’s worked.”

Townsend got the news midmorning from Fortier, who made her promise not to tell anyone else before the 10 a.m. announcement.

“So I immediately went to my family group chat and told them not to tell anyone,” Townsend said.

Townsend was joined on the 10-player first team by Jenn Wirth. Campbell made the second team, Jessie Loera was honorable mention and Kayleigh Truong is on the all-freshman squad.

“I’m really happy for our players who have been recognized for their accomplishments this season,” Fortier said. “We preach team success heavily within our program, but at the same time, we rely on players performing their best. Having five players included in this list is a testament to this team’s depth.”

Townsend, a junior from Okanogan, Washington, is the ninth player of the year in program history and the first since Jill Barta won in 2018.

Townsend has started all 30 games at guard for the Zags, averaging a team-leading 12.2 points per game while shooting 49.1% from the floor and 41.9% from long range.

A two-time player of the week this season, Townsend ranks 16th in the conference in scoring and 13th in rebounding with 5.7 per game.

Wirth, a junior forward, picked up her second career All-WCC selection after taking home all-freshman honors in 2018. Wirth averages 10.5 points per game, shooting 43.2% from the field with a team-leading 6.9 rebounds per game to rank ninth in the conference.

Wirth has recorded seven double-doubles this season and has scored in double figures 17 times, including a 24-point effort against Pacific on Jan. 11. Twice a WCC Player of the Week, she ranks eighth in the conference in blocks per game at 0.9.

Campbell, a senior guard, played and started in 23 games for the Zags this season, ranking second on the squad in scoring at 11.0 ppg.

She shot 46.7% from the floor and 43.1% from long range while ranking second on the team in steals per game with 1.7. She scored in double figures 16 times on the year.

Loera, a senior point guard, led the Zags in assists (4.9 per game) and steals (2.1 per game). She ranked second in the conference in assists per game and sixth in steals. She is three assists shy of moving into fourth in Gonzaga history for career assists.

Truong becomes the 14th Zag to be selected to the WCC All-Freshman team. Truong scored in double figures five times this season, averaging 6.0 points per game while shooting 35.8% from the floor and 36.1% from long range. She’s also averaged 2.7 assists per game to rank second on the squad.

BYU junior Sara Hamson was named Defensive Player of the Year, while Portland freshman forward Alex Fowler was tabbed Newcomer of the Year. San Diego’s Cindy Fisher was selected as coach of the year after taking the Toreros to second place after they finished last a year ago.

Fortier had won the award four of the previous five years.

All four individual awards, along with the All-WCC teams and all-freshman team, were voted on by the conference’s 10 head coaches.

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