Overtime Thriller for Regals Basketball
CLU advances to championship game
THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – It took extra basketball tonight at the Gilbert Arena to determine who would move on and who would go home in the semifinal of the 2013 Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic (SCIAC) Women’s Basketball Post Season Tournament. In a championship environment with a pair of highly talented teams and an energetic crowd, it was the home Cal Lutheran Regals who walked away victorious after defeating the Occidental Tigers 69-67 in overtime.
In a rematch of the 2012 SCIAC Postseason Tournament semifinal and a matchup of the last two SCIAC champions, the contest saw 16 ties and a gap of no more than eight points as Cal Lutheran made one more play than the Occidental tonight in overtime to advance to the championship game against Chapman on Saturday, Feb. 23.
The evenly matched teams from Cal Lutheran and Occidental shot 32.8 and 32.9 percent from the floor, respectively, with the Regals out-rebounding the Tigers 53-42 with 18 offensive boards tonight. The squads combined for 12 blocks and 22 steals in a game that saw 37 turnovers.
With only six points scored in the first five minutes, it was a defensive battle as neither team found an offensive rhythm. After the initial media timeout of the game, the teams each got in their respective grooves and going into the second media the squads were knotted at 15-15.
Never separated by more than three points in the half, CLU and Oxy were tied nine times, in the opening 20 minutes of action. For Cal Lutheran, Starla Wright poured in 12 first half points while Occidental was led by Makenzie Brandon with 10 as each tallied a total of 20 to share the game-high.
Rachel Heagy broke a 21-21 tie with a layup under the basket at the 4:53 mark and got the energetic CLU crowd on its feet. Marquisha Corley made it even exactly a minute later and on the ensuing Regals possession Alex Nelson converted an offensive rebound from Keeley Anderson into three points. Cal Lutheran trailed by a point when Channing Fleischmann stepped up to the free-throw line with 1:10 to play in the first half and took the lead as she connected for both. The Regals added to the advantage when Wright came down with the last of 13 first-half offensive rebounds and layed the ball in as time expired to put the home team up by three at 30-27 entering the intermission.
Occidental came out fired up and quickly took a lead on back-to-back possessions, but it was the Regals who would take control of the game with a 7-0 run mid-way through the second stanza. Fleischmann sparked the offensive output with a pair of layups, the second one an and-one before Anderson capped it off.
After the Tigers chipped back within four on a Michelle Naito-Lo basket, Natalie Stone countered with a three-pointer, giving CLU a 51-44 advantage with 8:47 in regulation.
At the two minute mark, Oxy senior defending SCIAC Player of the Year, Brandon scored one of her eight baskets from the floor to make it a one-point game and 45 seconds later Elizabeth Messick knocked down a pair of free-throws to tie things at 58-58 with 1:25 remaining.
Jazmyne Porter, who earned her first start of the season, was fouled and gave the Regals a 60-58 lead with 1:09 to go. CLU forced a turnover, but when the Tigers came down with a defensive rebound on the next CLU missed shot they called a timeout with 25 ticks to play. Brandon drove hard right, spun back left and found Corley for a wide-open layup with 14 seconds left. One last chance for Cal Lutheran was off target, sending the teams to overtime.
Though the Tigers won the tip, it was the Regals who reigned in the end, outscoring Oxy 9-7 in the five minute period. Nelson connected for a pair of free-throws at 2:09, the second giving CLU a three-point lead and Wright put the Violet and Gold up by the same margin after Brandon scored a bucket in between. Naito-Lo put in two free-throws to pull the Tigers within a point at 68-67 in overtime with 24 seconds on the clock.
On the final Tigers possession of the game, Brandon started at the top of the key, drove right and crossed back to her left but missed a runner in the lane. As Anderson came down with the rebound, Oxy fouled her with 14.3 seconds remaining.
The CLU sophomore made the first and missed the second, which was pulled down by Corley who quickly passed to Naito-Lo. The Occidental guard crossed half court slowly, setting up a dramatic ending. She tried to drive to the right, but was stopped by the CLU defense and forced to pass the ball to a guarded Liz Little with one second on the clock. Though Little tried to pump fake and took a bounce to her left in an attempt to find an open shot, she did not have enough time or space to get a good look as her shot was blocked by Nelson as the buzzer sounded, sending the CLU bench and fans into an uproar.
Finishing the game, and her career, with a double-double for Occidental, Brandon totaled 20 points, 12 rebounds, five assists and three steals, but still the Regals kept her from being as productive as she has been throughout her four years in the SCIAC. Cal Lutheran did a good job of defending her tonight, despite being without senior guard Erica Whitley who head coach Roy Dow described as, “One of the toughest perimeter defenders in the nation.” Both Wright and Anderson stepped up and assumed that role and produced.
Wright led the Regals with 20 points and 13 rebounds, as she was effective on the offensive glass with eight and at the free throw line (8-for-10) for the Regals. Despite being defended by Messick, who has length and recorded four blocked shots in the opening frame, Wright, the most active player in the league scored 12 points and had five rebounds in the first half.
Also turning in a big game tonight was Fleischmann who finished with a 17-point, 13-rebound double-double. She added three assists and two steals to her line as well. Anderson also reached double figure scoring for the Regals with 11.
Porter played 35 minutes tonight, leading the team with both four assists and three steals while scoring seven points and coming down with eight rebounds.
For Occidental Messick recorded seven blocks and scored 15 points as the only other player in double digits.
Cal Lutheran has defeated Occidental five consecutive times dating back to 2012.
In the other semifinal game tonight No. 2 Chapman came back from a 33-22 halftime deficit to defeat No. 3 Redlands (19-7) by two points, 64-62, at the Hutton Center this evening.
Cal Lutheran (22-4) will host Chapman (21-5) on Saturday, Feb. 23 at the Gilbert Arena for a 5:00 p.m. tip-off. The tournament champion will be guaranteed an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament set to begin March 1.
Tickets will be sold at the entrance to the Gilbert Arena. Children under the age of 12, current students, faculty and staff with ID receive free admittance. Admission for all others is $5. Merchandise will also be sold. Doors will open at 4:00 p.m.