Women’s basketball routed in opening round of NCAA tournament

Junior guard Jaryn Fajardo dribbles toward the paint in Chapman’s 81-51 loss to the University of St. Thomas March 2. Photos courtesy of Haley Staffon

For women’s basketball, the season is over. After capturing its first-ever championship in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC), Chapman took an 81-51 loss March 2 against the University of St. Thomas at its home court in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

Senior forward Irma Munoz said the atmosphere of the game was difficult for Chapman.

“It’s hard,” Munoz said. “There are so many distractions. The fans were totally against us. The players are talking totally against us. It was a little rough.”

The first-round loss in the Division III Women’s Basketball Championship was Chapman’s first appearance in the tournament since the 2013-14 season, when it lost to Whitman College.

St. Thomas, the host team of its group, has appeared in the tournament every year since the 2011-12 season, and lost in the national semi-final game last season.

Despite the loss, head coach Carol Jue said the experience was beneficial for the basketball program in the long term.

“This is what I have been striving for every year – finally, we were able to get that championship and also get into the (NCAA) playoffs,” Jue said. “Now the returners will know this is what we want more of.”

Chapman was outmatched by St. Thomas in most aspects. Seven St. Thomas players finished with at least nine points, while only senior guard Jaime Hum-Nishikado and sophomore forward Lucy Criswell had at least nine for Chapman.

Despite a noticeable size advantage, St. Thomas – playing five players 5-foot-11 or taller, compared to Chapman’s zero – only outrebounded Chapman by one. However, that advantage showed up in the paint, where St. Thomas outscored Chapman 46-14, helping it to 51.7 percent shooting compared to Chapman’s 30.5 percent.

Sophomore guard Marissa Dunn defends a University of St. Thomas player March 2.

Munoz said Chapman hurt itself with early mistakes against a clinical St. Thomas team.

“It was more than just height that they had their advantage in,” Munoz said. “They passed well, they shot well and their post players are great.”

While Chapman’s season is over, there is a chance the team will continue into the summer for a basketball tournament in Taiwan against other international teams. Every three years, the team gets a chance to compete internationally, with the players paying to go, Jue said.

Looking back on her final Chapman game, Munoz said she felt positive about the experience and the standard it sets for future teams.

“I think it creates bigger goals within our program,” Munoz said. “It paves the way for these girls next year. There’s more than just winning SCIAC and getting that championship. I think that adds value and I’m very proud to be a part of that.”

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