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Top Seattle sports stories of 2017: Gonzaga breaks through for 1st Final Four, title game

Gonzaga punched its first ticket to the Final Four with a decisive Elite Eight win over Xavier. (AP)

The 12 hosts of 710 ESPN Seattle have voted on the top Seattle sports stories of 2017. Each day we will count down to the top story of the year with an article by a different host. Today, Dave Grosby of Bob, Groz and Tom covers the ninth biggest story, Gonzaga’s tournament run that led to the Zags’ first Final Four appearance and a battle with North Carolina in the championship game.

Gonzaga basketball figured to be good in 2016-17. That was nothing new, of course – Gonzaga basketball is always good, it seems. It’s actually hard to remember a time they weren’t, with 20 straight 20-win seasons, 18 straight NCAA tournament bids under head coach Mark Few, and several 30-win seasons including 35-3 in 2014-15.

Photo gallery: Zags make first Final Four, NCAA title game appearances

The Zags had a preseason ranking of No. 14, but it soon became apparent that their season was going to be something special. They started with 29 straight wins, were the top-ranked team in the country for a month, and they cruised through the WCC Tournament to take a No. 1 seed into the NCAA Tournament.

Could the Zags check off one of the last milestones missing from their long run of success: a Final Four season?

There was a struggle in the second round against Northwestern (79-73) and they needed a hard fought win over West Virginia (61-58) in the Sweet 16, but that propelled Gonzaga into the Elite 8. A decisive 83-59 win over fellow Jesuit school Xavier allowed the Bulldogs to achieve their Final Four goal, and with a 77-73 victory over seventh-seeded South Carolina, an NCAA championship was suddenly possible.

Although the Zags came up short against North Carolina 71-65 in the title game, it was still a year to remember. And now Gonzaga can focus on a new goal  to win the whole thing.

A closer look at Gonzaga’s tournament run

O’Neil: Success of Zags’ Nigel Williams-Goss doesn’t look good for UW

Gonzaga play-by-play man on Zags depth, Nigel Williams-Goss

Gonzaga’s Zach Collins: Team’s success never about one player

Gonzaga earns No. 1 seed in NCAA Tournament

Ex-Zag Dickau looks at Final Four matchup

Hard to be disappointed in Gonzaga’s NCAA title game loss

Brock Huard reacts to Zags’ loss in title game