Regals Top Tigers in Thriller
Five free-throws down stretch seal win
LOS ANGELES, Calif. – A game between the top two teams in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) lived up to its billing as first-place Cal Lutheran escaped with a 53-49 victory over second-place Occidental Saturday night in Rush Gymnasium.
“It was an up and down game, and a great one at that. I thought our girls kept an even-keel and kept organizing and reorganizing, held their composure and we found a way to win,” head coach Roy Dow said.
Erica Whitley led Cal Lutheran with 13 points including the game-tying free-throws. Her teammate, Starla Wright, also had 13 points and knocked in the go-ahead free-throws as CLU improved to 4-1 over the past two seasons against the five-time defending regular season conference champions. No other team in the SCIAC has more than one win against Occidental in that span.
“Those seniors [Whitley and Wright] have been there before, they’ve been through this so I knew they would show some resiliency and resolve down the stretch,” Dow said.
The first half saw a back and forth battle as both the Regals and Tigers struggled to get their offenses going. Wright scored CLU’s first six points as Cal Lutheran got out to an 8-4 lead. Oxy would battle back and take the lead after Mackenzie Brandon came up with a steal that led to a break-away layup.
Alex Nelson would counter as CLU regained the lead on the next possession after the senior guard swished a three-pointer from the corner, putting the Regals up 11-9 at the 10:24 mark.
The teams continued to slug it out over the next six minutes with no team ever leading by more than two. Jazmyne Porter found an opening at the top of the key and sunk a pull-up jumper, putting CLU up 19-17 but the Tigers would march down the court and hit a three-pointer, reclaiming the lead at 20-19 with 4:01 left to play in the first half.
Oxy would reclaim the lead after baskets from Elizabeth Messick and Brandon, putting the Tigers up 24-21. Wright would cut the lead to one with a bucket in the last minute, sending the teams into halftime with Occidental up 24-23.
The Regals would quickly retake the lead two minutes in the second half when Whitley hit a long-three pointer and then a jumper on back-to-back possessions, giving CLU a 30-28 advantage.
Cal Lutheran would then go cold on the offensive end, missing straight shot. Capitalizing on the strike, Oxy retook the lead on a perfectly executed high-low from Katelyn Rowe to Messick, putting the Tigers up 37-34 with 12 minutes to play.
Whitley responded with another long three on the following possession, tying the game at 37-37. The top two teams in the conference would continue to spar over the next eight minutes with no squad holding more than a three point advantage.
Trailing by one, the Regals would cut, retake, and then build their lead from the free-throw line. Whitley sunk consecutive free-throws to give CLU the lead at 46-45 with four minutes left to play and a minute later Wright gave CLU a three-point advantage at 50-47 after making both her free-throws.
Brandon would cut the Regals lead to one with a minute to play after slashing to the hoop but Porter would drive to the basket and draw a foul on the Regals’ next possession. The senior would make one of two free-throws to put CLU back out by two with 34 seconds left to play.
The Regals then came up with their biggest stop of the night, forcing a turnover violation by the Tigers. On the following inbounds pass, Channing Fleischmann came up with an errant pass before being fouled. The senior from Reno, Nev. then hit one free-throw, giving CLU a 52-49 lead with 20 seconds left.
Liz Little would have an open three-pointer attempt but her shot rimmed out and Fleischmann came up with a clutch rebound and again was fouled. Fleischmann again made one of two free-throws and pushing the Regal lead to 53-49 with eight seconds left to play.
Occidental would take one final three but Keeley Anderson came up with the rebound and the Regals came out with the win.
Wright led CLU with 13 points and eight boards while Whitley was all over the stat sheet with 13 points, five rebounds, three assists, three blocks and one steal. Porter was the other Regal in double-figures, finishing with 11 points.
Brandon led the Tigers with 14 points though CLU held the SCIAC’s leading scorer to just four points in the second half. Messick was second the team with 11.
With the win, Cal Lutheran remains in first place with a 19-2 overall record and a 11-2 mark in the SCIAC. With the loss, Oxy falls to 13-7 overall and 8-3 in the SCIAC.
“I thought our girls were terrific tonight. But with all the buildup about tonight’s game, our girls know we didn’t win a conference championship tonight.” Dow continued, “They know we’ve got two weeks left and we’ve got to keep pushing because we still have four tough games ahead of us.”
Cal Lutheran returns to action next Saturday, Feb. 9, when they host Pomona-Pitzer at 5:00 p.m.