Tuesday , Mar , 06 , 2007 C.Y. Ellis

Gonzaga goes dancing; dream ends for George Mason

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) – The clock struck midnight for last year’s
Cinderella George Mason, while perennial darling Gonzaga punched its ticket to
the NCAA Tournament during a Monday night of mid-major tournament title games.

The Colonials were just two minutes from an improbable trip back to the NCAA
Tournament — the one-and-done sports event that turned into a made-for-TV
movie last season.

The 11th-seeded Colonials knocked off Michigan State, North Carolina, Wichita
State and top-seeded Connecticut to reach the Final Four.

The repeat dream was dashed by Virginia Commonwealth’s Eric Maynor, who
stripped Dre Smith en route to a three-point play before picking Gabe
Norwood’s pocket for another hoop to tie the game at 57-57 in just 11 seconds.

Maynor added four more points in succession, and the Rams held on for a 65-59
victory. Maynor scored 20 points, while Wil Fameni scored 13 points and
grabbed eight rebounds for the Rams (27-6), who won the most recent of
their two championships in 2004. Calvin Roland added 12 points and Ba
Walker netted 10 for VCU.

Smith scored 12 points for the Patriots (18-15), while Will Thomas and
Norwood both scored 10 points for this year’s sixth seed in the tourney.

Unlike George Mason, Gonzaga is back in the NCAA Tournament as an underdog,
its normal role in the last decade before holding the favorite distinction
last season. Then, the Bulldogs’ season and star forward Adam Morrison’s
collegiate career ended against UCLA in the Sweet 16.

Derek Raivio scored 28 points to lead the ‘Zags to their fourth straight West
Coast Conference Tournament title, a 77-68 victory over Santa Clara.

Matt Bouldin added 14 points for the tournament’s top-seeded Bulldogs (23-10),
who have won eight of the last nine conference tournament titles. Micah Downs
had 12 points and 10 boards and David Pendergraft recorded 12 points and seven
rebounds for Gonzaga, marking its ninth straight tourney appearance.

Scott Dougherty had 16 points to lead second-seeded Santa Clara (21-10), which
will likely be heading to the NIT instead of the NCAA Tournament. The Broncos,
though, will have to wait until Sunday to see if they will receive an at-large
berth.

Niagara also punched its ticket to the NCAA Tournament on Monday.

Tyrone Lewis poured in 24 points, had five rebounds and five steals to lead
the Purple Eagles past Siena, 83-79, in the Metro Atlantic Athletic
Conference Tournament championship game.

Lorenzo Miles added 21 points and dished out five assists for Niagara (22-11),
which has won 11 straight games.

Clif Brown had 14 points and 16 boards while Charron Fisher donated 13 and 12
rebounds for the Purple Eagles, who also won the MAAC title in 2005.

Alex Franklin netted a game-high 27 points and pulled down 11 rebounds for the
Saints (20-12), who committed 15 turnovers. Kenny Hasbrouck contributed 15
points in the loss.

These three teams joined Winthrop (Big South), Belmont (Atlantic Sun),
Davidson (Southern), Eastern Kentucky (Ohio Valley), Creighton (Missouri
Valley) and Pennsylvania (Ivy League) as automatic selections through Monday.