SANTA CRUZ, Calif. – After a critical defensive stop with the game on the line, Mackenzy Iwahashi was fouled and stepped up to make two free throws with five seconds remaining in the contest to grab a hard-fought 81-79 win for Cal Lutheran, Monday afternoon at Kaiser Permanente Arena against UC Santa Cruz.
The Regals (5-8, 2-3 SCIAC) were fairly efficient shooting the basketball as they were 28-62 (45.2%) from the field and 6-13 from three-point range. CLU performed on the defensive end as well, holding the Banana Slugs to just 37.1% shooting and forced 19 turnovers in the game.
Natalie Ruhl scored a career-high 29 points on the day, going 11-17 from the floor and a perfect 2-2 from beyond the arc to lead the Regals offensively. Iwahashi, the clutch performer of the game, scored 18 points and made eight of her nine shots from the free throw line. Jozie Tangeman and Cameron Mallory also got into double figures with 11 points apiece.
The Regals started off hot in the opening quarter as Mallory knocked down a three-pointer to get her team going offensively. Iwahashi and Ruhl followed with back-to-back layups to momentarily give CLU a five-point advantage. However, the Banana Slugs would close the first quarter with a 14-0 run to give themselves a 23-13 lead.
Cal Lutheran found their footing in the second period, putting together a 10-0 run to tie the game. Ruhl finished a tough driving layup after drawing some contact and completed the three-point play to gain some much-needed momentum for the Regals. Ruhl's 10 points in the quarter would help CLU out-score UCSC 22-17 in the period and they into the break with just a five-point deficit (35-30).
Ruhl picked up where she left off and opened the second half with yet another 'and-one' layup to cut the lead to two points. A layup from Haley Tyrell would give the Regals their first lead since early in the first quarter. Jozie Tangeman got in on the action, scoring eight points in the third period. A buzzer-beating triple from Ruhl would then cut the lead to two points. Despite another solid 10 minutes from CLU, the hosts managed to retain a 63-61 lead heading into the final quarter of play.
Taylor Oshiro quickly gave Cal Lutheran the lead as she opened the fourth quarter with a three-pointer from the corner. CLU began to catch fire as Tangeman hit a three and Tyrell poured in a layup to make the lead eight points just under the seven-minute mark. UCSC would respond with a 9-0 run to restore their lead with less than four minutes to play. Ruhl hit a nifty floater and then Oshiro banked in a layup as the Regals regained the lead with just over two minutes on the clock.
Cal Lutheran had their chance to take the lead from the free throw line with less than a minute left, but missed three of their four foul shots. UCSC then capitalized on a pair of free throws to take a two-point lead with 30 seconds remaining in the contest. Iwahashi clutched up on the Regals' final possession in regulation, drawing a foul and knocking down both shots from the line to tie the game 79-79.
The Purple and Gold had to get one stop on the defensive end to extend the game and they did just that, as Iwahashi then grabbed the defensive rebound and drew a foul. With CLU in the bonus, Iwahashi was at the line with the game on the line, and once again, swished both free throws to win the game.
Cal Lutheran have now won back-to-back games and they return to SCIAC play Jan. 15 at 7 p.m. when they travel to Caltech to take on the Beavers.
Box Score: CLU 81, UCSC 79
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Release by Jeff Rebello, Assistant Sports Information Director