The women’s basketball team earned its first Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference win with a 62-55 home victory over Claremont-Mudd-Scripps on Wednesday night.
This is the Leopards’ first win in conference this year and their first win against CMS since 2013, snapping a 14-game losing streak to the Athenas.
This win came after two close losses against Pomona-Pitzer and Occidental by a combined four points, and junior guard Casey Kuramoto knows it was an early must-win game.
“Losing by two to Oxy and Pomona, it hurts even more when it’s a close game, so winning this game boosted our morale but we expected to win and it helps us moving forward,” Kuramoto said.
The Leopards fell behind early. Two offensive rebounds and putbacks by senior forward Kayla Rubio put the Leopards on the board and kept the score close with the Leopards trailing, 6-4.
After stout defense from both teams forcing turnovers throughout the first quarter, senior guard Vanessa Maldonado found her stroke, hitting a three to put the Leopards up for the first time, 10-8. CMS answered with a three of their own in the final seconds of the quarter, and a final hook shot from Rubio kept the Leopards close, 17-13.
The loose offensive play continued as another Leopards turnover led to a bucket and one for CMS, increasing their lead to 20-13.
The Leopards got back into it, rattling off five straight points, including another Rubio offensive board that led to a 3-pointer from freshman guard Marissa Howell to cut the lead to two points.
The Leopards then went on a huge eight-point run finished by senior guard Jazzlyn Johnson’s steal and a breakaway layup to put the Leopards up, 29-26.
After a breakaway three and a layup the Athenas tied the game at 31 in the final seconds of the half. However senior forward Mary Mikaelian hit the final shot of the half from three to keep the Leopards ahead, 34-31.
Johnson came out firing in the second half. She would score the first seven points for the Leopards, including an and-one, to put the Leopards up, 41-37.
CMS would continue to keep the game close with turnovers and easy looks at the basket but Howell and senior guard Jaelynn Curley would splash back-to-back 3-pointers to keep the lead for the Leopards.
CMS came back with four straight points to cut the deficit again. The Leopards led 53-51 at the end of three.
In the final quarter there was loose offense and tough defense. There were four turnovers by both teams and eight fouls in the quarter. Despite this, Johnson continued to keep the Leopards afloat. Her two hard buckets in the paint gave the Leopards the late 57-51 lead, one of the largest of the game.
The Leopards would hang on, stuffing the Athenas on offense and hitting a clutch free throw to put the game away, 62-55.
The Leopards improve to 1-2 in conference play and 4-3 overall. They will host Bethesda College for the second time this year at 5 p.m. Friday. The Leopards beat Bethesda, 99-49, last month.
Jacob Barriga can be reached at email@example.com.