Leopards stay hot with win over Athenas

Senior forward Jennifer Morales drives to the paint against the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Athenas in Wednesday night’s 81-64 victory at Frantz Athletic Court. The Leopards have their final regular season game and senior day at 4 p.m. Saturday against the Chapman Panthers at home. / photo by Sarah Van Buskirk
Senior forward Jennifer Morales drives to the paint against the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Athenas in Wednesday night’s 81-64 victory at Frantz Athletic Court. The Leopards have their final regular season game and senior day at 4 p.m. Saturday against the Chapman Panthers at home. / photo by Sarah Van Buskirk

Jack Janes
Sports Editor

La Verne’s women’s basketball squad continues their pursuit of back-to-back Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference regular season championships with a 81-64 win over Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Wednesday night at Frantz Athletic Court on National Girls and Women in Sports night, leaving them tied with Cal Lutheran for first place going into the final game of the regular season.

“We don’t see it as pressure, this is where we wanted to be,” head coach Anthony Mason said. “This is the expectation. We wanted to be here, so this is a gift for us to be able to play to close out first place on Saturday.”

The Leopards won the tip off and proceeded to open the scoring with a three-pointer by senior guard Valentina Limon on their first possession. La Verne’s defense put on a clinic to start the game as the Leopards’ lead climbed to 9-0 before the Athenas could get on the board.

The Leopards were firing on all cylinders in the first quarter, with strong defense and impressive offensive plays like senior guard Brianna Torres deking an Athena defender on her drive to the basket for the layup and junior guard Marissa Howell draining a three pointer from well behind the three-point line. When the dust settled on the first quarter, the Leopards possessed a 20-13 lead.

Senior guard Brianna Torres drives towards the net in Wednesday night’s game against the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Athenas at Frantz Athletic Court. The Leopards celebrated their 81-64 win along with National Girls and Women in Sports Day, handing out rings for being the regular season Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference champions last season. / photo by Sarah Van Buskirk
Senior guard Brianna Torres drives towards the net in Wednesday night’s game against the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Athenas at Frantz Athletic Court. The Leopards celebrated their 81-64 win along with National Girls and Women in Sports Day, handing out rings for being the regular season Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference champions last season. / photo by Sarah Van Buskirk

Things got interesting in the second quarter when the Athenas started with an eight-point run to make it 22-21. Senior forward Chiara Brown then took charge of the offense and proceeded to score the next six points for the Leopards.

The Athenas kept making it close, bringing it to a 31-29 Leopards lead late in the second quarter. Howell was fouled and made all three of her free throws to end the first half at a 34-29 Leopards lead.

The Leopards regained control of the game in the third quarter in large part due to Brown, Howell and freshman forward Alyssa Smith leading the way. Brown scored on a couple layups and made the and-one, Smith cashed in on a layup and Howell swished another three from the corner and all the sudden it was 45-34 Leopards.

Howell’s three-pointer started a three-pointer rally as the Athena senior guard Sadie Heckman responded with one of her own, but then Smith hit back-to-back three pointers to make it a 51-37 Leopards lead. The third quarter ended with the Leopards leading 53-44.

The Athenas seemed to be finding their groove again in the beginning of the fourth quarter, getting within five points of the lead until Limon drilled another three-pointer to make it 60-52. The Athenas never got any closer after that as the Leopards began to pour it on, outscoring the Athenas 21-12 the rest of the game for a 81-64 final score.

Brown finished the game with 25 points and 11 rebounds, Smith with 18 points and seven rebounds and Howell finished the game with 17 points and was 4-9 from the three-point line. 

Freshman forward Alyssa Smith takes a shot against the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Athenas on Wednesday night at Frantz Athletic Court. The Leopards took a 81-64 win to improve their record 12-3 in Southern California Intercollegiate Conference play and 16-6 overall. / photo by Sarah Van Buskirk
Freshman forward Alyssa Smith takes a shot against the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Athenas on Wednesday night at Frantz Athletic Court. The Leopards took a 81-64 win to improve their record 12-3 in Southern California Intercollegiate Conference play and 16-6 overall. / photo by Sarah Van Buskirk

The Leopards also traveled to Redlands on Saturday and came home with a 71-53 victory. The Leopards are now 16-6 overall and 12-3 in SCIAC play.

The regular season finale is at 4 p.m. Saturday at Frantz Athletic Court against Chapman, who currently holds the last playoff spot, so it could potentially be a playoff preview. 

“Just stay locked in,” Brown said. “It’s another game, there’s more at stake, but it’s just another game. We know we can do it if we just do what we can control and what we’ve done all year round.”

As mentioned earlier, this was the National Girls and Women in Sports Day game and it featured a pregame ring ceremony for the 2023 SCIAC regular season championship Leopards, University of La Verne’s Xpressions Dance Ensemble’s “Divine Femme” halftime performance and pink decorations all over Frantz Athletic Court. Among those in the packed bleachers were other female athletes at La Verne.

“It means a lot to me,” Smith said. “The support we had from volleyball and a whole bunch of sports meant a lot to our team.”

Howell also spoke about the significance of this night to her.

“Just grateful that I have this opportunity to play and that we can help inspire other women who want to join sports or get active,” Howell said.

Jack Janes can be reached at jack.janes@laverne.edu.

Senior point guard Naomi Jackson looks for an open opportunity in the matchup against the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Athenas on Wednesday night at Frantz Athletic Court. Prior to the Leopards’ 81-64 win, the team celebrated National Girls and Women in Sports Day and received rings for winning the regular season Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference last season. / photo Sarah Van Buskirk
Senior point guard Naomi Jackson looks for an open opportunity in the matchup against the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Athenas on Wednesday night at Frantz Athletic Court. Prior to the Leopards’ 81-64 win, the team celebrated National Girls and Women in Sports Day and received rings for winning the regular season Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference last season. / photo Sarah Van Buskirk

Jack Janes, a senior journalism major, is sports editor of the Campus Times and a staff writer for La Verne Magazine. He is also a staff photographer for both publications. He previously served as a Campus Times staff writer.

Sarah Van Buskirk is a senior journalism major with a concentration in print and online journalism. She is the Spring 2024 editorial director for the Campus Times and has recently served as editor-in-chief, sports editor and staff writer. She is also currently a staff photographer for the Campus Times and La Verne Magazine, and a staff writer for La Verne Magazine.

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