THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — Gilbert Arena came alive Wednesday night as the Cal Lutheran Regals stunned the Chapman Panthers behind freshman Cameron Mallory's game-winning three in the final minute of the game. The 58-55 victory moves Cal Lutheran to 4-3 on the year and a spotless 3-0 to start conference play.
In addition, the victory not only hands Chapman, who entered the contest 5-0, its first loss of the season, but moves Cal Lutheran into sole possession of first place in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
"I'm really proud of our effort, as a group collectively, and our attention to detail on the defensive end really gave us the chance to win the game," said head coach Lindsay Samaniego, "Sneaking in those early conference wins is really big for us. We can now turn the page and prepare for our next set of conference matchups."
Offensively, the team shot 39.2 percent from the floor, with six made three-pointers. However, defensively, the Regals out-rebounded the Panthers 41-30 and picked up 15 second chance points after offensive boards. While Chapman entered the night averaging nearly 72 points per game, the Cal Lutheran defense shined and held them to a season-worst 55 points.
For the Regals, Mallory led the team with six boards on top of her eight points, while sophomore Jade Jordan led the team in points with 10 and added five rebounds of her own. But the victory was a full team effort as every player who entered the floor scored for Cal Lutheran. Also putting up big numbers, junior Natalie Ruhl and freshman Mackenzy Iwahashi came off the bench to contribute eight and seven points, respectively.
Both teams went toe-to-toe throughout the first half of the night, neither able to extend beyond a two-possession advantage. The Panthers held their largest lead of the night by six points 21-15 with 5:27 left to play in the second quarter, but the Regals quickly responded with a layup from senior Rylie Wada sandwiched between back-to-back layups by freshman Haley Tyrell and Iwahashi to enter halftime knotted up 25 points apiece.
The back-and-forth battle continued into the third quarter, until a big three from Mallory with 5:47 to go in the period sparked a 17-4 scoring run for Cal Lutheran. The Regals in a span of five minutes had jumped out to their biggest lead of the night, holding an 11-point lead with 22 seconds remaining in the third.
On the other hand, a three-pointer from Chapman's leading scorer, Jaryn Fajardo, to start the fourth quarter was able to swing the momentum back into the Panthers favor. They opened the period with 12 unanswered points to regain the lead 48-45 with 6:38 left to play.
Determined, the Regals held their deficit within two possessions for the next four minutes. Finally, a three-point shot by sophomore Jozie Tangeman with 2:10 on the clock got a rally going for Cal Lutheran and brought them within one field goal 54-51. She continued to attack the deficit, stealing the ball from Lucy Criswell of the Panthers just eight seconds later for the wide-open layup and pulling the Regals within a one-point game.
With the clock winding down to under a minute, Samaniego called a timeout and sent the team back onto the floor for arguably the most important play of the game. And just like clockwork, Mallory followed through with a three from the right corner to put the team up for the last time 56-54 with 40 seconds on the clock.
Thwarting the Panthers' opportunity to score a field goal, the Regals sent Chapman's Julia Strand to the line with 17 seconds left. In a silent arena, Strand missed her first free throw, and though she made her second, it wasn't enough. Chapman sent Ruhl to the line for the Regals less than a second later, hoping a for a last-chance effort, but the junior guard sunk both attempts with confidence to send the Regals home with the 58-55 win.
The win concludes the opening three-game conference stretch of 2018 and the Regals will reenter SCIAC play in January 3-0. In the interim, Cal Lutheran takes on a five-game non-conference slate, beginning with the Knox Prairie Fire on Thursday, December 15, at 6:30 p.m. PST inside of Gilbert Arena.
Post-Game Interview: Mackenzy Iwahashi and Cameron Mallory
Box Score: CLU 58, CU 55
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Release by Christy Effendie, Assistant Sports Information Director