The University of Redlands women's basketball team celebrated its seniors in fine fashion on Saturday night by capturing a pivotal 60-55 victory over the visiting Tigers of Occidental College. With the win, the Bulldogs further solidify their fourth-place position in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) standings with three games remaining.
After honoring the careers and contributions of seniors Jade Cheldelin (Portland, OR), Selena Iriarte (Wilmington, CA), Yoemma Esparza (Shafter, CA), and Sydney Bennett (Agoura Hills, CA), the Bulldogs battled through a back-and-forth opening quarter that resulted in a 14-15 deficit after 10 minutes.
The tight race continued in the second stanza but Redlands dramatically improved its shooting to 50%, as compared to Occidental's 29.4% showing. Junior guard Caitlyn Dixon (Seattle, WA) entered the game to make an immediate impact by finding her open teammates on sweet assists. She connected with junior forward Allison Siksnus (Placentia, CA) on an inside pass for the lay-up, before getting the ball to an open freshman guard Mariana Ecija (San Diego, CA) for the jumper, resulting in the Bulldogs' 20-19 advantage with 8:04 left in the quarter.
After Ecija tied it up at 23 on a beautiful three-pointer off of a Siksnus assist, the Bulldogs began to pull away, with Cheldelin and junior forward Reyna Ta'amu (Lakewood, CA) scoring important buckets. Redlands entered the halftime intermission with a slight 30-26 lead.
Although the Tigers cut it to two, the Maroon and Gray quickly responded with a key lay-up by junior guard Courtney Chen (La Canada, CA), which kicked off a 9-2 run. By the 2:13-mark of the third frame, the Bulldogs held a 42-32 advantage. Freshman guard Cassandra Lacey's (Victorville, CA) third-consecutive bucket extended the home team's lead to 12 points, with Esparza dishing out the assist with 19 seconds left.
Although Occidental made a valiant push for a comeback in the fourth quarter, Redlands remained poised and never trailed in the waning minutes of action. Junior guard Angela Silver's (Scotts Valley, CA) hard-nosed effort in the paint resulted in critical rebounds, steals, and a late jumper to make it 57-52 for the Bulldogs.
Despite missing a few final free-throws, Redlands kept the Tigers at bay to secure the important 60-55 win.
Cheldelin led the Maroon and Gray with 19 points on 8-for-12 shooting while also hauling in six rebounds. Ta'amu backed her with 11 points and seven rebounds, as Ecija offered eight points and three assists.
Redlands (12-10, 9-4 SCIAC) faces the Regals of Cal Lutheran University in Monday's "Play 4 Kay" game at 7 p.m. in Currier Gym. Fans are invited to wear pink to raise awareness for all women's cancers.