Home court could be the difference for women’s basketball in playoffs

Doug Close, Sports Editor

The women’s basketball team is on a roll.

After winning their seventh game in a row on Feb. 11 after an 82-55 home victory against the California Institute of Technology, the Panthers booked their spot in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) playoffs for the fifth season in a row. With three games remaining in their regular season, the Panthers have a chance to match last season’s 10-game winning streak going into the playoffs.

A winning streak can sometimes be one of those things that players and coaches are reluctant to talk about for fear of jinxing the run of good results or putting too much pressure on players to keep the streak alive.

However, head coach Carol Jue thinks any sort of elephant in the room during the Panthers’ final few SCIAC games is the opposite of what the team needs.

“We talk about (the winning streak) every day,” Jue said. “I put it out there. I’m not one to say, ‘Oh, I regret not saying this.’ I talk about it every day at practice about how we’re right there, and we gotta stay in the moment. We have to, because we’re vying for something bigger – first place, and keeping in first place. We gotta take care of each other and take care of our own games. That’s the biggest thing.”

As Jue said, there is more than just the pride of a long winning streak on the line. If the Panthers can finish on top of the SCIAC standings, the team could claim home court advantage in the playoffs and gain a huge upper hand in what will likely be their most competitive matchups this season.

The Panthers’ next three games are against sixth-place Whittier College, third-place Claremont-Mudd-Scripps and fifth-place Occidental College. Wins against all three would likely guarantee that the Panthers would not face rivals California Lutheran University until the SCIAC playoff finals, should the Panthers advance to that stage of the tournament.

Cal Lutheran has haunted the Panthers in the past two postseasons, even though the Panthers have performed well against the Regals during the regular season. Last year, the Regals ended the Panthers’ season in the SCIAC playoff semifinals with a double digit win. The year before? Same story.

The extra frustrating part about that is that Cal Lutheran has only beaten the Panthers in three of its last seven attempts. The thing is that two of those wins have been in the playoffs and ended Chapman’s season.

With the playoffs clinched and Cal Lutheran sitting in second as of Feb. 12 (with a game in hand), the Panthers must continue their strong scoring form into the playoffs, or else this winning streak may not mean much in the long term.

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