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Gonzaga's sister act of Kayleigh and Kaylynne Truong propels Zags into Sweet 16

There is a reason Gonzaga coach Lisa Fortier has put so much trust in the sister duo of Kayleigh and Kaylynne Truong on the court.

“Well, I mean, I basically raised them as my own. They’ve been here for so long,” Fortier quipped.

Jokes aside, a big part of why the fourth-seeded Bulldogs find themselves in the women's Sweet 16 for the first time in nearly a decade is because of what the twin sisters have brought to the program during their five years at Gonzaga.

The next challenge is the biggest the Zags (32-3) have faced to date — top-seeded Texas (32-4) in the Portland 4 Regional semifinal on Friday night.

"It started from the jump, right before preseason even started," Kayleigh Truong said. "Like coach Lisa said, we all came together as a team and we set a standard. ... This was one of our goals.”

The Truongs arrived in Spokane in 2019. They could have ended their college careers last year, but a foot injury suffered by Kayleigh robbed the pair of a chance to start together as seniors. Prior to that, Kayleigh had started with Kaylynne the first off the bench for the Zags.

With her sister out, Kaylynne became the West Coast Conference player of the year and an honorable mention AP All-American during the 2022-23 season. Because of the missed opportunity to start together, and with several other key players choosing to return — including Eliza Hollingsworth and Brynna Maxwell — the pair decided to take advantage of the opportunity and get one more year together in college.

“Those guys coming back for their fifth year, they could have all been playing pro, playing at (whatever) school in the world,” Fortier said. “So the four of those super seniors, and throw (Yvonne Ejim) into that, they came back with passion and something they didn’t have necessarily before.”

Getting a chance to start together for the first time since high school has been rewarding, both for the sisters and the Zags as a whole. Kayleigh has averaged 12.3 points per game; Kaylynne is at 11.6. Kaylynne has 204 assists; Kayleigh has 152. Kayleigh is shooting 44.6% on 3-pointers; Kaylynne is at 42.9%.

In the second-round win over Utah, Kayleigh finished with 21 points, including three 3-pointers; Kaylynne hit four 3s and finished with 14 points.

For Fortier having the duo on the court gives her a level of comfort where she doesn’t have to do that much coaching with all the experience they have.

“We always say there is a lot of freedom with understanding in our program,” Fortier said. “Those guys, as fifth years who have logged plenty of minutes and been in lots of big games and big moments, I’m confident they know what to do and they’re going to do it well and step up at the right moments.”

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AP March Madness bracket: https://apnews.com/hub/ncaa-womens-bracket/ and coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness