SPOKANE, Wash. — Gonzaga is familiar with being a Cinderella team in the NCAA Tournament. This year though, they're anything but.
However, we still do have a local connection to one Cinderella squad.
"It has been the craziest last few weeks but also the most exciting," said Elle Tinkle, who is a former Gonzaga women's basketball player and also the daughter of Spokane native and Oregon State head coach Wayne Tinkle.
The Beaver men were not projected to make March Madness going into the Pac-12 Tournament, which meant they had to win three straight games in Las Vegas to punch their ticket to the Big Dance.
That means Elle Tinkle and her family have essentially had to endure an elimination game in each of the last five contests, which includes their first two NCAA tournament games.
"It’s horrible. It is so much harder being a fan and now especially in these moments, it’s ten times worse," said Elle.
The seeds for these moments began for Wayne Tinkle, and eventually his family, right here in our community, as Wayne is a 1984 graduate of Ferris High School.
"Every time we’d go to Ferris High School and try to look at his old stomping grounds, he’d try to joke that there was a Wayne Tinkle statue somewhere, but in all our years we never saw it, so kind of peculiar," said Elle with a laugh. "But, he’s very loyal to Spokane and that holds a special place in his heart."
Back when Wayne was in high school, Spokane was hardly the basketball mecca that it is now. Tinkle is a part of a generation that helped get basketball where it is at currently in this region.
"I’m sure he considers himself someone who helped take it off? I don’t know. But it’s been a lot of fun just to see that basketball community really elevate," said Elle.
It came full circle for the Tinkles when Elle helped also elevate the sport in Spokane as a member of Gonzaga’s last women’s team to make the Sweet 16 in 2015.
The Oregon State men and Gonzaga men are on opposite sides of the bracket, so the only way they’d meet is in the championship, but if she’s put in that position, she knows what she’d do.
"I think we all know where my loyalty would have to fall, but it’s fun to just have one thing that really reunites everybody," said Elle.
Oregon State defeated Loyola Saturday afternoon 65-58.