For years, Zykera Rice wondered what basketball postseason bliss felt like.
On Tuesday afternoon, she finally got to experience the ultimate joy in the playoffs as her Gonzaga University women’s basketball squad won the West Coast Conference tournament title at the Orleans Arena.
The 6-foot-1 sophomore out of Clover Park High School played just five minutes off the bench in the Zags’ 86-75 victory over Saint Mary’s, but she isn’t complaining. Not one bit.
“This is amazing,” said Rice, who was one of the first players to climb the ladder and snip a piece of the net. “We played so well together this whole tournament. I cannot believe we are going dancing (in the NCAA Women’s Tournament).”
Rice was a dominant player in the 2A SPSL, scoring 796 points for her career at Clover Park. But she never went to the postseason.
She arrived at Gonzaga last season, playing sparingly as a freshman.
“It was hard coming from a school where we did not have a real system. I had to learn plays,” Rice said. “But the second half of the season, my role picked up.”
“Run and rebound,” she said.
In other words, when Gonzaga coach Lisa Fortier calls on her from the bench for her 10 minutes of play per game, Rice is expected to be a key energy player, disrupting the paint with her extraordinary athleticism.
“Here, everyone plays a part,” Rice said.
Jill Barta set a WCC tournament single-game scoring mark with her 37 points in leading the Zags. Rice tallied two points on a bucket in the first half.
And now, she has a souvenir – that piece of net.
“My mom is big on filling my shadow box,” Rice said. “I think I might have to take some of the other stuff out and put this in it.”