The University of Redlands women's basketball team took on the California Lutheran University Regals in a crucial Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) match on Monday during "Play4Kay" night in Currier Gym. The Bulldogs battled through four, physical quarters and trailed most of the game, before coming up with some pivotal buckets late in the contest to snag the hard-fought 71-68 win.
With the victory, Redlands secures a spot in the SCIAC Postseason Tournament as a top-four team for the 10th-consecutive year.
The Regals arrived ready to play, as they jumped out to a fast 14-5 lead. But Redlands quickly regrouped to go on an 11-6 run. During this spurt, freshman guard Mariana Ecija (San Diego, CA) entered the game and immediately made her presence known by hitting a nothing-but-net trey-ball. Sophomore guard Mandy Silver (Scotts Valley, CA) sunk her subsequent jumper, which was followed by not one, but two more Ecija threes to bring the Bulldogs within four at 16-20 with two-and-half minutes left in the first quarter.
Down 16-22 at the start of the second quarter, senior guard Jade Cheldelin (Portland, OR) got after it by knocking down Redlands' first two jumpers. This initiated a solid surge on both ends of the court for the Maroon and Gray.
At the 6:14-minute mark, junior guard Angela Silver (Scotts Valley, CA) was sent to the charity stripe and sunk both free-throws. Less than a minute later, senior guard Yoemma Esparza (Shafter, CA) stepped up to the line and netted both of her opportunities to put the team within three at 24-27.
With three minutes left in the first half, junior guard Reyna Ta'amu (Lakewood, CA) snagged an offensive board and hooked it up and in for the foul and successfully completed the three-point play. Despite Redlands' constant offensive pressure, the home team continued to trail. With 49 ticks left on the clock, junior forward Allison Siksnus (Placentia, CA) hit a huge shot from beyond the arc, before junior guard Courtney Chen (La Canada, CA) fed a sweet pass to freshman Cassandra Lacey (Victorville, CA) under the basket, where she knocked down a last-second jumper to close the gap to one point at 38-39.
The third quarter proved to be an offensive struggle for the Bulldogs, as their shots were just not falling. Cal Lutheran kept up the intensity en route to recording its biggest lead of the night at 55-44 with 2:02 left in the third.
Down by 11 at the start of the fourth, the Bulldogs faced an uphill battle to possibly overtake the Regals for the first time. Redlands began the comeback with a 4-1 run, before Chen snagged a Regal turnover and converted it into points off of a nice lay-up to keep chipping away at Redlands' deficit. Now trailing by six, the Maroon and Gray took care of business at the free-throw line, with Cheldelin converting four opportunities, before Ta'amu added two pivotal lay-ups and a pair of free-throws to equalize the score at 64-64 with 1:53 left in the game.
Through another minute of play and under immense pressure, Cheldelin and Ta'amu remained calm at the free-throw line by making all four shots in deju-vu fashion. Ta'amu's last free-throw gave the Bulldogs their biggest lead of the night at 68-64 with 55 ticks remaining in the fourth quarter.
The Regals subsequently went on a short 4-1 run to put the score within one with 41 seconds left. The Bulldogs knew they had to manage the clock and make smart shots. On the Bulldogs' final possession, Cheldelin found an open Chen, who threw up a mid-range jumper that fell through the net for Redlands' 71-68 advantage with 11 seconds to go.
Due to the Maroon and Gray's impressive and stealthy defense, the Regals had a hard time getting off their final shot. The unbalanced long-range attempt eventually missed the target as time expired, propelling the Bulldogs to their sixth SCIAC victory in the last seven games and a guaranteed spot in the SCIAC Postseason Tournament for the 10th-consecutive year.
Ta'amu ended the night with nine boards and 21 points, with Cheldelin adding in 18 points. The whole team was money from the charity stripe by converting 80.6% of its attempts.
The Bulldogs (13-10, 10-4) continue SCIAC play, as they travel to Whitter College to take on the Poets on Saturday, February 18, in a 5 p.m. start.