Women’s basketball tied for first place heading into playoffs

The women’s basketball team is tied for first place and finished its regular season at home with a 74-62 win over fifth-place Occidental College.

Chapman is tied with Claremont-Mudd-Scripps for No. 1 in the Southern California Intercollegiate Conference (SCIAC), but goes into the SCIAC semifinals against California Lutheran University on Thursday as the No. 2 seed, because Claremont-Mudd-Scripps beat the Panthers in both their matchups this season. The Panthers will host the single-elimination game at 7 p.m. on Thursday.

“We’ve been here before. We’re looking to come out hard,” said junior guard Jaime Hum-Nishikado. “When we do that, we can stand with anybody.”

Thursday is an opportunity for the Panthers to get revenge on third-place Cal Lutheran, which has knocked Chapman out of the SCIAC semifinals the past two seasons.

Chapman started off strong after the senior night celebration of the four Panther seniors, guards Lauren Sato, Courtney Krysl, Megan Charles and forward Wendy Shiga.

“It feels really great. We wanted to recognize our seniors. We went out and played hard and got the W,” Hum-Nishikado said.

Chapman President Daniele Struppa was among the 225 fans who filled the home team’s bleachers to support the seniors.

The Panthers took the lead early and finished the first half with a buzzer-beater by Charles to make their lead stand at 42-23. The Panthers would keep the lead for the rest of the game.

“(I wanted them) to play hard tonight, to leave everything on the court,” said head coach Carol Jue. “After that, winning takes care of itself.”

The Tigers (13-12, 9-7) threatened the Panthers’ win by outscoring them in the fourth quarter 13-12, but Sato helped keep her team on top by scoring six 3-pointers during the second half of her senior night. Sato finished the night with 26 points, one point shy of her season high.

The Panthers finished their regular season with a 13-3 record in the SCIAC and 16-9 overall.

“We got to play well,” Jue said about the upcoming playoff game. “We stick to strategy and get back on defense.”

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