In a thrilling non-conference game in the Super Tents, the La Verne women’s basketball team faced a tough loss to UC Santa Cruz, 70-65, on Saturday night.
The game at Frantz Athletic Court kicked off with a defensive battle as both teams struggled to score, but the Leopards managed to carve out an early lead. Junior guard Marissa Howell emerged as the standout performer, delivering an exceptional performance with 20 points, including five three-pointers.
In a historic moment for La Verne Women’s Basketball, Howell not only led the team in scoring but also became the all-time leader in three-pointers made. The previous record belonged to Ashley Paul with 193, set back in 2011. Howell now has 199 career three-pointers.
“Marissa is a special player, so for anybody who gets to coach her, it’s a real special time,” head coach Anthony Mason said.
Senior guard Naomi Jackson, who was unaware of Howell’s record until it was announced during the game, praised her teammate’s growth.
“I’ve seen her grow so much since her freshman year. She deserves it. Best shooter I’ve ever seen,” Jackson said.
Adding to the offensive firepower, senior forward Chiara Brown contributed 13 points, while senior guard Brianna Torres came off the bench and provided a crucial 12 points.
“Coming off the bench, I can see what the team needs, whether it be defense, offense or rebounds,” Torres said. “Tonight, it was defense in the first half, but that changed in the second half as I saw us struggling to score, so I felt I needed to provide some scoring off the bench as well.”
The first quarter saw the Leopards leading 17-8, but the Banana Slugs mounted a comeback in the second quarter, narrowing the gap to 31-26 by halftime. Santa Cruz continued their momentum into the second half, eventually seizing the lead in the third quarter. Despite Howell’s record-breaking three-pointer, the Slugs maintained control, finishing the third quarter with a 45-43 lead.
The fourth quarter commenced with Jackson’s drive to the rim, converting an and-one to tie the game at 45-45. Both teams engaged in a three-point shootout, but Santa Cruz ultimately won the battle with senior forward Amanda Inserra’s crucial three-pointer giving the Slugs a lead they held for the remainder of the game.
Brown drilled a post fadeaway to cut the deficit to three points, but Inserra hit another three-pointer which widened the gap to six with less than five minutes remaining. The Banana Slugs seized the momentum after forcing a turnover by the Leopards. Howell’s late three-pointer brought the score to 62-59 Santa Cruz, but Santa Cruz’s sophomore center Jenna Gorton’s post move and-one pushed the lead back to six.
“We take every game like it’s the last game,” freshman forward Alyssa Smith said. “I came into this game knowing that they were going to give their 100 percent best effort because we beat them earlier this season at their place. My mindset was to study them and just be ready.”
The Leopards attempted a comeback with desperation three-point attempts, but none found the mark. Santa Cruz secured a hard-fought 70-65 victory on the road, leaving the Leopards determined to regroup for their upcoming conference battle against Whittier.
Looking ahead to the crucial Whittier matchup, Torres echoed Mason’s message to the team.
“This is a really big game on Wednesday night because we are tied for first place with them,” Torres said. “Coach Mason just told us to let this game go, and focus on the next one because the next one is a big one.”
Then on Wednesday, the Leopards grinded out a win in double overtime against Whittier, 69-62.
As the Leopards now stand at 14-7 overall, 10-3 in conference, they are tied for first place with Cal Lutheran. The Leopards will look ahead to future matchups this week at Redlands on Saturday and back home against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps on Wednesday.
“We’ve got to work, that’s it right there, it’s effort and rebounding,” Mason said. “That’s how we’ve won games before, when we don’t have those things we’ve lost them, so we have to get back in the lab and get that hunger back.”
Jonas Holt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.