LAS VEGAS -- Coach Paul Thomas answered the question politely but without much hope in his voice after the Saint Mary's College women lost 68-60 to top-seeded Gonzaga on Monday afternoon in the semifinals of the West Coast Conference tournament at the Orleans Hotel.

Could the Gaels, with a solid No. 47 rating by the RPI computer, possibly earn a spot in the NCAA tournament?

"We'll be playing in the postseason," Thomas said. "If the NCAA is watching, please let us in. They're probably not watching."

No, for the fifth straight season, the Gaels (22-9) are seemingly headed to the Women's NIT after succumbing to the 10-time WCC regular-season champion Bulldogs (28-4).

Gonzaga will play either BYU or Pacific in Tuesday's championship game, with the league's automatic NCAA bid on the line.

For the Gaels, who split two regular-season games with Gonzaga, the outcome was tough to swallow. "Obviously, it's pretty frustrating," said guard Jackie Nared, who scored 29 points, but had just four free throws over the final 11:20

Saint Mary's has closed the gap against Gonzaga, which had won 17 straight in the series entering the 2011-12 season. Since then, the Gaels have beaten the Bulldogs once each year.

But Nared, Danielle Mauldin (10 points, 11 rebounds) and Kate Gaze (8 points) all are seniors and won't get another shot at their rival. "It's a great senior class," Gonzaga coach Kelly Graves said, specifically citing the efforts of Nared. "I'm so glad I don't have to see her play again. She's a great player."

Nared, the WCC's scoring champ, had 16 points in the first half, but her teammates were a combined 4 for 13 and Saint Mary's trailed 37-26 after a late 9-0 Gonzaga run.

Nared continued to attack and her driving layup with 11:20 left pulled the Gaels within 49-45.

Gonzaga's Graves wondered if the Gaels' senior guard perhaps wore down after that. "I didn't get tired," Nared said. "My shot was feeling good."

"Jackie had to shoot over some long arms a few times, which altered her shot," Thomas said.

The Gaels trailed just 53-48 with 7 minutes left, but made only two more field goals.

Haiden Palmer, who totaled 50 points in two regular-season games against the Gaels, led the 18th-ranked Bulldogs with 16 points.

Gonzaga junior Lindsay Sherbert, who played two seasons at Cal, scored all 14 of her points in the first half, including 3 for 3 from 3-point range.