Athenas hold off Hens’ comeback attempt to avenge earlier loss, keep P-P on postseason bubble

A woman wearing a white basketball jersey leans backwards and jumps to shoot a basketball, while a second woman wearing a blue jersey extends her arms to defend the shot.
Madison Quan PZ ’22 defends Maezelle Millan’s CM ’21 jump shot in CMS’s 82-71 win over P-P on Feb. 5, 2020. (Amy Best • The Student Life)

With both squads riding four-game win streaks and the Athenas looking to avenge their previous loss to the Sagehens, the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (14-6, 7-4 SCIAC) and Pomona-Pitzer (11-9, 6-5 SCIAC) women’s basketball teams faced off in Wednesday’s highly anticipated Sixth Street Rivalry game. 

Despite a frenzied comeback effort by the Sagehens, led by Madison Quan PZ ’22 and Renae Tamura PO ’21, the Athenas held on for an 82-71 victory and kept their cross-street rivals on the bubble of postseason play.

By the end of the first half, CMS held a commanding 46-30 lead, with Kate Parrish CM ’21 leading an 18-0 unanswered scoring run for the Athenas between the first and second quarters. 

In the second half, Quan’s hot shooting and a clutch pair of free throws from Tamura got the Sagehens within four. CMS came out victorious in the end, though, thanks in part to out-rebounding P-P 42-30.

Quan and Parrish both scored 19 points to lead their respective teams.

With the loss, P-P moves to fifth in the SCIAC standings while CMS stays in third.

Though the Sagehens have endured injuries and tough losses, interim head coach Alaina Woo is confident in her team’s ability to fight their way into the conference tournament.

“As a team, we work every day on controlling the controllables: working hard, communicating and being great teammates,” Woo said. “There is always room to improve in these areas.” 

Woo was named head coach in the fall of 2019 after former coach Jill Pace left the Sagehens to become the head coach of Tufts University women’s basketball. Woo, who previously served as an assistant coach, was a member of the P-P women’s basketball team herself, leaving an impressive legacy as a four-year starter and two-year captain. 

“The best part of coaching the team is [working with] our student athletes,” Woo said. “We have an awesome, dedicated group of women who want to achieve their best.”

Tamura praised Woo’s ability to play to the team’s strengths and tweak game plans depending on the opponent.

“Coach Woo has been great at learning and adjusting with the team,” Tamura said. “We have had a few injuries throughout the season, so she has done a great job of tailoring our offense and defense to our strengths.” 

The Sagehens were set back earlier this season when two of their key scorers, Kamil English PO ’22 and Carly Leong PZ ’22 went down with unexpected injuries, Tamura said. 

The Hens have struggled through multiple three-game losing streaks and lost four of their first five games to start the new year. After falling to the Athenas, the defending SCIAC Tournament champions will have to finish the season on a hot streak to make the postseason tournament.

“Right now, we are focused on centralizing our expectations in the current possession or moment, especially in practice,” Woo said.

Like P-P, the Athenas also welcomed a new head coach, Chanel Murchison, at the start of the school year. Murchison came to CMS from her alma mater, William and Mary, where she served as an assistant coach for two years. 

“I expected to be entering a program of talented young women, who work hard and strive for excellence in everything that they do,” Murchison said. “Each day, I am fortunate to have my expectations met.”

The team has adjusted well to both Murchison and their talented freshmen class, according to Maya Love CM ’20. 

Although Love is out with a torn meniscus this season, she noted that “everyone has grown and gotten confident this year. You can really see our post stepping up and our point guards.”

According to Murchison, defense is key for the Athenas. As the Athenas approach the home stretch of the regular season, they will continue to work on maintaining a dominant defensive presence for the entire 40 minutes of every game. 

“We have talked about a plethora of things that we want to accomplish but with the realization that we have to be willing to do certain things to get there,” Murchison said. “Our motto for the season has been ‘we want, we will.’” 

With only five regular season games left for each team, both CMS and P-P are looking to close out the year hot and qualify for the SCIAC Tournament. If they both make it, they could be looking at a Sixth Street Rivalry in the finals, the same as last year.

“This year, every team has lost a game, and every team is looking to make playoffs,” Woo said. 

The Hens will next take on Redlands on Saturday, and the Athenas will play Caltech the same day on their senior night.

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