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LAS VEGAS — From the get-go, Lori Parkinson had BYU's attention on Monday in the West Coast Conference women's basketball semifinals.
The West Valley native and Cyprus High alum had a hand in 10 of Santa Clara's 12 first-quarter points, scoring eight and assisting on the Broncos' first field goal, in her team's eventual 87-67 loss to the Cougars at the Orleans Arena.
That early efficiency translated to the rest of the game, as she finished with a team-high 24 points, seven rebounds, three steals and an assist.
The 6-foot junior forward has enjoyed a standout season in 2015-16, earning All-WCC first-team honors as the Broncos' leader scorer (13.5 points per game) while being second on the team in rebounding (6.4 per game).
It was an impressive tournament for Parkinson. In Santa Clara’s WCC quarterfinal win over Gonzaga, she had 19 points and seven rebounds, as well as three steals, two assists and one blocked shot.
Parkinson’s college career didn’t start out in sunny Santa Clara, California. It began in Southern Utah, where she played in 63 games over two seasons for the T-Birds, starting 32 games her sophomore year and leading the team in rebounding (7.3 rpg) and blocks (29) while also being second on the team in scoring (11.6 ppg). During that 2013-14 season, Southern Utah, under then-head coach JR Payne, won a school-record 23 games and advanced to the WNIT, beating Colorado State before losing to Colorado, in the program’s first postseason appearance.
After that year, Payne, who played her college ball at Saint Mary’s, left to take over at another WCC program, Santa Clara. Parkinson followed, and after sitting out the 2014-15 season due to NCAA Division I transfer rules, she began her Bronco career this season and quickly turned into a leader.
That was evident on the floor in Las Vegas on Tuesday.
Parkinson, who shot 9 of 18, was the only Bronco to finish .500 or better from the field, and she hit 6 of 8 free throws, while five of her rebounds were on the offensive end.
She showed off her ability to grab the boards inside on offense early. After teammate Morgan McGwire launched a shot off the inbound pass, she wrestled an offensive rebound away from teammate Marie Bertholdt and scored to make it 6-5 just 2:02 into the game.
Parkinson scored three points off the five offensive rebounds.
"All week, they've been telling me, 'Lori when you get it, rip and attack because they can't stop you. Either they're going to foul you or your're going to make it,' " Parkinson said. "... That was just my mindset: catch it, rip and go."
Of her 24 points, 18 came in the paint, accounting for more than half of the Broncos' 34 in the paint. She added a pair of and-ones in the third quarter.
All three of Parkinson's steals came in the first quarter. On the final one, she drove the length of the court to convert the takaway into two points on a layup.
The opportunity to play against a team from her home state added some motivation for Parkinson.
"It was kind of cool, because you hear about BYU being dominant," Parkinson said. "It gave me more extra (motivation) to go out there and play hard. I went to Southern Utah, and they kind of passed up on me, so it gives me just a little more fight to play harder."
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