It was a neck-and-neck game. With 0.6 seconds left in the WCC championship game, senior Jill Townsend scored a field goal that brought our women’s basketball team over BYU’s, claiming the title for the team. 43-42.
A legendary win for the senior captain.
Clips of Townsend’s victory flooded social media outlets. Students, teachers and families alike went wild for the team’s miraculous shot. This hype carried over right into the first game of the NCAA Tournament until GU lost its first game, ending their time in the tournament. With a final score of 64-59, the Belmont University Bruins beat out the Zags.
“Our whole team did some nice things, but between the turnovers and the trouble that we had with [Destinee Wells], it was a tough out,” Head Coach Lisa Fortier after the game via a Zoom press conference. “If we could have had one or two things go our way, it could have been a different outcome. But they’re a good team, which we knew going into it.”
Jill Townsend has since announced that she will no longer be playing for the team.
“As of now I’m not coming back,” Townsend said after the press conference. “You know, it’s been a long year and I think every athlete can attest to that. They can attest to the mental struggles that COVID and everything brought upon it.”
Despite her NCAA run this year being cut short, Townsend has established an incredible legacy on campus, within our community and in basketball.
At the time of Townsend’s recruitment at GU, she was ESPN.com’s 96th best recruit.
Since her first season on campus, she has shown great skill, only improving as the years went on. Her freshman year, she appeared in all 33 games of the season. During her sophomore year, she was named WCCs All-Honorable Mention and selected to be the WCCs All-Academic Honorable Mention.
In 2020, she was named the WCCs Player of the Year. A title well deserved.
Playing guard, Towndsend has played with grace and skill over the years. During this season alone, she scored 29 points in one game — an all-time career high.
Townsend has overcome many trials over the years. Two years ago, she broke her leg during the WCC semifinals game against Saint Mary’s College. Leg in a cast, she still showed up for her teammates at later games.
“It was like our team was whole again. That was important to Townie,” said Coach Lisa Fortier for the Spokesman.
Before the WCC finals game this season against BYU, she had to overcome an intense stomach-flu.
At the NCAA tournament this year, she and her teammates had to overcome systemic sexism, as much of the training equipment and quality in procedures were significantly worse than the men’s teams.
“I think from a mental health standpoint with the outside and the health with the weight rooms and food there is no reason for that disparity between the men’s and women’s side,” Townsend said at a press conference. “We deserve our health and mental health to be taken just as seriously as the men. It is kind of disappointing when you see stuff like that.
Her excellence isn’t just felt on the team. In her hometown of Okanogan, Washington, they sold March Madness T-shirts that spelled out, “Townsend Tough 32” in bold-face font. This was in recognition of her perseverance over the course of her career.
Both her and her brother, former Eastern Washington University lineman Jim Townsend, are local sports legends in Okanogan.
“I’m extremely proud of her – her grit, her determination,” her mother Janell Townsend said for the Spokesman.
Townsend’s herculean efforts for her team and the GU community garnered national recognition. In early February, she was named a nominee for the Senior CLASS Award.
This prestigious accolade was created in 2001 to recognize outstanding student-athletes in different NCAA Division I programs. It includes men's and women’s Basketball, men’s ice hockey, and women’s volleyball. The award recognizes accomplishments in various areas, including classroom, competition and character.
Jill Townsend was one of 30 women’s basketball players across the nation to be nominated for the award, and she advanced to the finalists group later that month. Her nomination shouldn’t come as a surprise, as Townsend has dedicated much of her heart and soul to her team and GU.
If there is anything we can learn from the senior captain’s exceptional career, it’s perseverance. Through fire and brimstone, Jill Townsend has always shown up and played hard. Among the leaders on our campus, her absence will be felt greatly.
She is leaving behind a legendary legacy.
It is her perseverance, her teamwork, her leadership and her spirit that sets a high example — one calls us to strive for that same greatness.