The Leopards took down the Cal Lutheran Regals, 77-63, Wednesday night at Frantz Athletic Court in their first home conference game.
“We really focus on defense and in transition as well and when we have open shooters. We’re kicking it out, but if we have the dish in, then we were going to put it in post,” junior forward Chiara Brown said.
The Leopards won the tip off and got on the board first when graduate student guard Dejanee Gill put it in the basket from down low. Moments later, the Leopards started to get some separation as sophomore guard Marissa Howell drained a three-pointer to make it 9-4 Leopards.
The Leopards continued to dominate the first quarter and got up to a 13-4 lead when junior guard Brianna Torres made a jumpshot in the paint. The first quarter ended with an exclamation point as senior guard Jazzlyn Johnson hit the buzzer-beating three-pointer to make it 20-11 going into the second quarter.
Defense came up big for the Leopards in the opening quarter, which allowed the Leopards to get out to a large lead early and never look back.
“If you score a bucket, the point doesn’t count until you come down and validate it,” head coach Jason Pruitt said. “So I think that has put the mentality in our kids to lock down and play.”
Gill opened the scoring in the second quarter and put in a wide open layup for a 22-11 lead. The Leopards continued to rally and forced the Regals to finally call a timeout after Brown scored a basket down low surrounded by Regal defenders.
The timeout would not change much as sophomore guard Dawson Bell scored a reverse layup and senior guard Casey Kuramoto hit a three-pointer to make it 36-26 Leopards at half time.
“We’re passing the ball, sharing the ball, making sure everyone gets their looks and I think we’re all just really committed to get to that end goal of winning the championship this year,” Gill said.
For the third straight quarter, the Leopards would strike first when Brown drove to the basket through Regal defenders and made it 38-26 Leopards. The Leopards got on another hot streak that saw Bell who drained back to back shots just inside the three-point line and Gill got a basket down low to take a commanding 50-30 lead and caused the Regals to call a timeout.
Once again, the Regals’ timeout did not help much as moments later Gill stole the ball at half court and then set up Brown for the open layup. Later on in the quarter, Howell made a nice play when there was a pick set up on the Regal player that was defending her, but Howell faked going toward the pick and lost the defender as she drilled the open three-pointer. The third quarter ended with a 61-45 Leopards’ lead.
Howell stayed hot in the fourth quarter and drained two more three-pointers to put a wrap on the game. The tents erupted after each three-pointer and brought the energy all the way until time ran out and the Leopards won, 77-63.
“Sticking to the game plan, we go over it before every game and then we just execute every game,” Howell said.
The Leopards improve to 6-1 and 3-0 in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. The next game for the Leopards in their home stretch is 2 p.m. Dec. 17 as they take on Life Pacific in a non-conference game at Frantz Athletic Court.
Jack Janes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.