A strong second half helped the women’s basketball team win the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference opener against the Caltech Beavers, 74-61, Wednesday night at Frantz Athletic Court.
“Just take that energy and that effort we have in the fourth quarter and put it to the first,” senior forward Chiara Brown said. “We have to play all four quarters like that and so if we can do that, then we will be a really great team.”
The Beavers got things underway by winning the tip-off and scoring the game’s first point with a three-pointer by senior guard Hope Arnett. The Leopards responded right away when Brown got a rebound, scored with a jump shot and drew a foul. After making the free throw, it was tied 3-3.
A steal by freshman forward Alyssa Smith turned into a fast break for the Leopards and senior guard Valentina Limon put it in with a layup to take a 5-3 lead. The Leopards held onto this lead for a whole quarter and it was not until eight unanswered points by the Beavers to give them a 23-20 lead early in the second quarter.
There were five lead changes from that point on in the second quarter, but the Leopards came away with a lead going into halftime thanks to a three-pointer by junior guard Marissa Howell to end the half 38-35.
The second half started with a Beavers three-pointer by junior guard and forward Kathryn Edwards to tie it up at 38-38. The Leopards were able to get some separation after Brown got a layup to extend the lead 46-38, but the Beavers came right back and tied it again after a three-pointer by junior guard Kodie Vondra made it 50-50.
Freshman forward Cayla Harang got fouled and made one of her free throws to give the Leopards a 51-50 lead, a lead that the Leopards would hold onto the rest of the game. The rest of the third quarter’s points were all free throws and when the dust settled, the Leopards took a 55-51 lead into the fourth quarter.
The Leopards’ defense came up big in the fourth quarter, limiting the Beavers to just 10 points in the quarter.
Brown opened the scoring in the fourth when she drove to the basket and knocked down a layup to make it 57-51. The Beavers started to creep back as they were down by just two points at 59-57 after junior guard Maria Vazhaeparambil made all three of her free throws.
Then Smith drained a three-pointer from the left corner and extended the Leopards lead to 62-57. The Leopards continued to apply pressure and with just 2:33 left in the game, the lead was 68-61.
Howell was fouled three times down the final stretch and made all of her free throws to seal the deal and the Leopards won 74-61.
“We have a saying, ‘Not too high, not too low, nice and steady,’” senior guard Brianna Torres said. “So I think today in the third and fourth we kept it nice and steady.”
The top performers for the Leopards were Brown with 19 points and 16 rebounds, Howell with 14 points and Smith with seven points, eight rebounds and three steals.
The Leopards improve to 3-1 overall and are 1-0 in SCIAC play.
“We got a lot of fight,” head coach Anthony Mason said. “We’ve been in some close ones and we figured out how to win and I think some of that comes from their experience last year of figuring out how to win close games.”
The Leopards’ next set of games is at 1 p.m. Saturday at UC Santa Cruz and then they face Pomona-Pitzer at 7 p.m. Wednesday at home.
“We are going to focus on our defensive principles and make sure we clean up our mistakes on that side of the ball,” Howell said.
Jack Janes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.