Women’s basketball tied for second place after win over first-place Cal Lutheran

Senior guard Lauren Sato dribbles around California Lutheran University’s defense. Sato led the Panthers with 20 points during Saturday’s game. Photo by Jayson King

The women’s basketball team defeated first-place California Lutheran University 70-58 at home Saturday afternoon, marking the team’s third win in a row.

“It feels great, especially just the way we won,” said senior guard Lauren Sato, who led the Panthers in points. “I felt like it was a great team win. We did let them come back a little and that was a little scary, but we pulled together as a team and ultimately, it was a great win. Just a really good feeling.”

Cal Lutheran (11-7, 7-2) came into Saturday’s game undefeated in its last four games. The last time the team lost was also to the Panthers (10-8, 7-2) Jan. 11 with a closer score of 70-68.

One of the reasons for the Panthers’ success was their work on defense. Over the course of the game, the Panthers scored 25 points from turnovers, while the Regals only scored seven. This, combined with a 3-pointer percentage of 46.7, allowed the Panthers to see the game through.

Despite these strengths, there were some areas that the Panthers couldn’t fully compete in.

“We just got out-rebounded because we’re just not the tallest,” said head coach Carol Jue. “It’s an attitude to rebound. That was the hardest to watch, that we let them have offensive rebound after offensive rebound.”

After scoring a career-high 27 points against Whittier College last Saturday and 13 points in Wednesday’s win against Caltech, Sato put up 20 points against the Regals.

“To be honest, I didn’t even know that that was how many points I had,” Sato said. “My whole mentality tonight was that I wanted to win. I keep telling people that, after our two losses (Jan. 14 and Jan. 18) especially, and this being my last season, I’m going to end each game as if it’s my last. It’s all I got; my games are numbered. I’m just trying to stay in the moment, so I think that plays into it.”

This win brings the Panthers’ conference record to 7-2, tying Cal Lutheran’s record for second place in the Southern Californian Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC).

“I told them, ‘We got to play it game by game. You control your own destiny,’” Jue said. “Our goal every year is to win SCIAC. If we don’t win SCIAC, we got to be in the top four, and then you want to win the tournament. So it was key to beat them, because they were the first-placed team.”

Although the season is coming to a close, the team can’t focus on the end yet.

“You have to prepare for each game,” Jue said. “You can’t look ahead. We have Redlands next. They have three losses. We have to treat and respect each opponent. The mental part of it is very key right now. As you heard from Sato, who’s a senior and has been with me for five years, to know that each game, each possession and each minute means something and you have to stay in the moment.”

The Panthers travel to face Redlands University (9-9, 6-3) on Wednesday at 7 p.m.

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