LAS VEGAS — Tears came easily, baskets were hard to make late and Lexi Rydalch needed only a few seconds to be crowned as the West Coast Conference’s most prolific scorer among all men and women who have competed in the league.
These were the bullet points after No. 6 seed San Francisco upended No. 1 BYU 70-68 in the championship game of the WCC Women’s basketball tournament in the Orleans Arena Tuesday.
It took Rydalch just 20 seconds after the opening tipoff to surpass the late All-American Hank Gathers as the league’s all-time leading scorer. Despite the loss, Rydalch will have postseason play — presumably in the NCAA tournament — to add to that record (2,513 career points).
Breaking Gathers' mark was a milestone for Rydalch in light of a disappointing loss in which the Cougars faded late against the Dons.
“It means a lot,” said Rydalch. “He was a legend, just a stud and to be in that same conversation is really a big compliment. So, it’s pretty awesome.”
Rydalch’s career in the WCC didn’t pass without a salute from San Francisco coach Jennifer Azzi, a former WNBA player.
“Lexi is one of the best players that I’ve seen,” said Azzi.
“I was blown away when we were coming out of warmups at halftime during our game at BYU and she jumped and grabbed the rim. She’s an unbelievable athlete and a very, very talented basketball player. I think she’ll do very well in the WNBA. If I were a coach, I’d take her in a heartbeat.”
Rydalch began her final WCC game making 6 of her first 11 shots. But then she struggled, going 6 for 20 before making a layup with three minutes left in the game. That was BYU’s final field goal as San Francisco rallied from 15 points down to take its first lead with just 17 seconds left and a fouled-out Rydalch on the bench.
Rydalch, the player of the year in the league, finished with 23 points. It marked the 25th time this year she’d scored more than 20 points and the 52nd time in her storied career. She also passed Kari Gallup (81) for sixth most 3-pointers in a season at 83.
Additionally, Kalani Purcell had 16 rebounds, giving her 407 for the season, which is a new BYU single-season record.