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Women’s basketball stumble in championship heartbreak

From left, sophomore guard Brittany Quon, sophomore guard Lynne Higashigawa, sophomore guard Nicole Moy, freshman guard Lauren Sato and freshman guard Kristen Mejia react from the bench during Wednesday night’s close win against Redlands. Photo by Sarah Purlee

From left, sophomore guard Brittany Quon, sophomore guard Lynne Higashigawa, sophomore guard Nicole Moy, freshman guard Lauren Sato and freshman guard Kristen Mejia react from the bench during Thursday night’s close win against Redlands. Photo by Sarah Purlee

After a long late-season run, the women’s basketball team ran out of gas Saturday evening in the SCIAC postseason tournament conference championship, falling to an unforgiving host Cal Lutheran University 59-54.

The Panthers had grabbed nine consecutive wins coming into the game, but failed to overcome the Regals in their first conference championship debut.

“We gave it all we had, we just had trouble putting the ball in the basket,” said senior guard Emily McCoy.

Junior guard Kimi Takaoka scored 32 points on 11-21 shooting, but it wasn’t enough to propel Chapman to a victory. Cal Lutheran’s (24-4, 13-3) defense was too much for the high-powered Chapman (21-6, 12-4) offense, holding every other Panther to single-digit points.

Freshman forward Sandra Gao was held to one point on one shot in 26 minutes, despite a double-digit average throughout the season. The Regals adjusted their defense accordingly to lock her down.

“They were sending double and triple teams at [Gao]. We still should have tried to get her more looks since she is a huge part of our offense,” Takaoka said.

McCoy and fellow senior guard Anne Yoshimura also struggled, shooting a combined 4-18 from the field. The Panthers played their customary strong defense, but it wasn’t enough, especially in a hostile environment at Cal Lutheran.

The Regals were led by senior guard Jazmyne Porter, who sunk 18 points. The Panthers jumped out to an early lead in the first half, but Cal Lutheran climbed back into the game and it was a back-and-forth contest from there on.

“We fought every minute of the game, but we just came up short,” said sophomore guard Andrea Villanueva. “They came up with some key plays in the end to get ahead, but we still played all 40 minutes and didn’t give up.”

The loss was especially heartbreaking for Chapman, who came off of an emotional comeback victory in its first SCIAC playoff game Thursday night. The Panthers defeated the University of Redlands 64-62 after being down 33-22 at halftime.

“When we came out the first five minutes of the second half, you noticed the difference. There was more fire on everyone’s faces,” said head coach Carol Jue.

Yoshimura led the way for Chapman, sinking 15 points on 6-8 shooting. The team captain helped keep the Panthers in the game with several key baskets. Her scoring proved key to counter the Redlands defense that clamped on Takaoka.

“We have to get [Takaoka] open and step up to make plays,” Yoshimura said.

The feat proved plausible Saturday with Takaoka’s 32 points. However, it’ll take more of a collective effort to win if Chapman receives an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. The Panthers will find out in the NCAA selection show, set to air Monday at 2:30 p.m.

Update: The women’s basketball team had its season officially ended on Monday as the final spots in the NCAA Div. III were announced.

The women had experienced one of their best seasons and finished in second place in their division. However, after losing in the SCIAC Championship game, the women’s only hope of making the NCAA tournament was by getting an at-large bid, which they did not receive. 

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