Seniors Chantal Crouzet and Raphaelle Buenafe ended their Leopard careers on a high note, helping the women’s basketball team cruise to a 90-36 senior night win over Caltech on Saturday.
Crouzet and Buenafe, both transfer students, celebrated their time at La Verne at center court prior to the start of the game with family, flowers, teammates and words from head coach Matt Rogers.
“(They are) just tough, smart, caring kids,” Rogers said. “They were fantastic leaders and through the ups and downs of the season they never stopped being positive.”
After a NCAA Division III record-setting performance on Feb. 11 against Pomona-Pitzer in which the Leopards made 26 three-pointers, La Verne picked up where they left off and took their first shot from distance only three seconds into the game.
The strategy continued throughout the first half.
Whenever a Leopard had an open look at the three-point line, the shot was taken.
Buenafe scored the second three-point shot and was quickly followed by sophomore guard Megan Musashi’s own three, one of her two for the night, to open a 6-0 lead.
The Leopards made wholesale substitutions throughout the game, the first only 2:08 into the game, switching five player groups in short bursts.
The quick bursts, which only lasted between three and five minutes, proved effective for La Verne.
The energy on the court was consistent and bothersome for Caltech and the Leopards capitalized.
After freshman guard Brittni Tapia sank a free throw, she stole the inbound pass.
Through a series of missed shots and offensive rebounds the lead was extended to 18-4 after Tapia scored a two-point basket, one of only five in the first half.
Senior forward Teri Juarez of Caltech led all scorers with 24 points, including a drive to the basket for a layup that snapped an 11-point scoring streak for the home team.
At the halftime buzzer the Leopards enjoyed a comfortable 51-16 lead, created largely in part by a 12-for-39 effort from beyond the arc.
“Our chemistry was good, we ran the floor, our pressure was good and we trusted each other,” Buenafe said.
La Verne continued in stride throughout the second half, creating an insurmountable lead with a 14-0 scoring run that lasted until the 13:33 mark.
“Our focus in the first half was to move the ball and get good shots,” Rogers said.
“In the second half we wanted to drive and kick the ball to shooters.”
La Verne attacked the paint more, took a variety of shots, and still pushed the pace on the fast break, but three-pointers always seemed to be the priority.
“Why are you going inside the three-point line?” Rogers said to a player during the half.
After the game Crouzet admitted that they were attempting to break their own record.
The final buzzer sounded on the 2011-12 season as well as Buenafe and Crouzet’s careers with the 90-36 win.
The Leopards finished 8-17 overall and earned a fifth place finish in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference with a 6-8 record. Tapia led the Leopards with 14 points while Crouzet finished with eight points and Buenafe with seven.
“I met a lot of great friends, had a lot of support from them and the coaches in the three years and it’s something I’ll never forget,” Crouzet said.
“It’s been really fun,” Buenafe said. “The people I played with made it a memorable experience and I wouldn’t change anything about it.”
As for next year, the departing seniors believe in the team who will have 10 seniors a year from now.
“I want to wish them the best of luck. They have a lot of talent,” Crouzet said. “I hope they continue pushing themselves and the team.”
“Since only two of us are leaving, everyone comes back with a year of experience under their belt,” Buenafe said. “They’ll learn from this year and capitalize on it because I have faith they can do it.”
Daniel Hargis can be reached at email@example.com.