A large lead for the La Verne women’s basketball team early in the game was all it needed Saturday to defeat the Pomona-Pitzer Sagehens, 68-62, at Frantz Athletic Court.
The team currently sits one and a half a game back of Chapman for third in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
La Verne came out with a big lead early in the first quarter, 20-8, backed by a strong shooting performance from sophomore Faye Osburn.
“Our goal coming into the season was to make the top four but obviously our expectation is higher than just making the four seed because we would like to set a top of conference standings so that is what we are working toward here now,” Osburn said.
“We know what we have to do and a lot of that comes down to working together as a team because it can not be a one person show out there. We all have to play our part,” she said.
Osburn finished the game with 10 points.
The Sagehens battled back with three straight layups and cut the deficit to six, 16-22, with 7:49 left in the first half.
La Verne answered back minutes after, extending the lead back to 12 points, 30-18.
Junior guard Shannon Irwin played a pivotal factor in the game, as she helped lead the Leopards in assists with five.
Irwin also finished with two steals, which was tied for the team lead in the game from junior forward Emily Myers.
Strong rebounding from Pomona-Pitzer’s sophomore forward Basha Brulee-Willis, along with four made free throws in just 40 seconds
with 2:17 left in the half, brought the game back within eight points, 32-24.
“I was pretty fired up from our loss against Whittier earlier in the week and I knew Pomona was not a team that we can take lightly,” Myers said.
“I knew that we needed to perform and win to keep our spot in the top four in conference to make the tournament,” she said.
The Leopards generated 23 points off 20 Sagehen turnovers.
Freshman guard Taylor Bolden hit a buzzer beating shot at the end of the first half that was assisted by sophomore forward Gaby Moura-Hayes, to put the Leopards up by 11, 35-24 at halftime.
La Verne started strong in the second half and went on a 12-2 run behind good low post play from Myers, who was 4-5 during the stretch.
The double-double machine finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds, for her fifth double-double of the season.
Myers ranks third in SCIAC in rebounding at 8.5 per game.
“Rebounding to me is a matter of hustle and how bad you want it, and I want our team to win so badly that I am always hustling,” Myers said.
The Leopards gained their largest lead of the game when Hicks nailed consecutive free throws with 15:12 left in the second half, 47-28.
“Most of our games this year have been a case where both teams have come out hot,” Hicks said.
“So during a game of big runs you have to be able to maintain a strong bench with high energy to keep that momentum going. My team sees me as somebody off the bench that can provide that spark so I try to keep the momentum going forward.”
Hicks finished with 11 points and two assists.
The Sagehens battled back to get within nine points, 46-55, with 6:21 left in the game after a 14-4 run.
Hicks shot a free throw to seal the deal and end the game, 68-62.
“This week will probably be one of the biggest weeks of the year for the team because we know need to win both games to keep pace with remaining in the top four,” Osburn said.
“So we will try to keep that mindset going into practice this week and going into our games to try and play strong and together as a team,” she said.
The Leopards also faced Cal Lutheran Wednesday at Frantz Athletic Court.
Despite freshman forward Kayla Chism’s 19 points and seven rebounds, the team fell, 83-68.
Hicks also finished with 14 points off the bench.
The Leopards are now 10-12 overall and 7-6 in SCIAC play.
The teams next game is 2 p.m. Saturday against Redlands at Frantz Athletic Court.
Hal Hargrave can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.