After six straight years of making the conference playoffs – which included three finals losses – the women’s basketball team has won its first Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship.
With a double-overtime 70-61 victory Feb. 24, Chapman won at Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (CMS) – a week after losing there – for the first time since the 2013-14 season. The Panthers were bolstered by an away crowd full of the Chapman track and field teams, which head coach Carol Jue said was larger than the home CMS crowd.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” said Jue, who said earlier this season she was sick of losing to CMS, her alma mater. “There are so many times that we came home crying. I think the monkey is off our back, finally.”
Chapman was led by an MVP performance from junior guard Jaryn Fajardo, who had a career-high 25 points along with six assists, four rebounds and four steals. Fajardo said it was “flattering” to win the award, but she had a greater appreciation for cutting down CMS’s nets on its court.
“It felt a lot sweeter to be at their house right after that tough loss (last week),” Fajardo said.
Chapman nearly sealed the game on two occasions before it pulled out the win. The Athenas tied up the game twice – at the end of the fourth quarter with a tip-in from CMS freshman forward Kate Parrish, and at the end of the first overtime with a three-pointer from senior guard Corinne Bogle.
Jue said she could have done without the extra drama.
“Good thing I wore a sleeveless dress,” Jue said. “If I wore a suit, that suit would’ve been sweating like crazy.”
Once double overtime started, Chapman’s defensive pressure overwhelmed CMS, and its efficient shooting put the Athenas away.
Chapman scored 17 points in the five-minute double overtime period – more than any 10-minute period – by grabbing two steals and shooting a perfect 6-for-6 from the free-throw line and 5-for-5 from the field.
Jue was especially happy for the team’s seniors, Jaime Hum-Nishikado, Irma Munoz and Sydney Olivier.
“I’ve been telling them since October, ‘I was mad since last year, but I want you to know what it feels like to be a champion,’” Jue said. “Irma and Jaime were tearing up and I ended up tearing up a little bit. Our makeup was all running across our face. What a great feeling for those seniors.”
With its win, Chapman has secured an automatic berth to the NCAA Division III Women’s Basketball Championship. The selection show will be broadcast at 11:30 a.m. Feb. 26 on the NCAA website.
Despite playing 46 of 50 possible minutes in the game, Fajardo said she wasn’t burned out and welcomed more games. But for the moment, she and her team will celebrate.
“It’s definitely the highlight of my college experience so far,” Fajardo said.