Hens, Athenas see seasons end in tournament at hands of Bulldogs

A woman runs with a basketball. Behind her sit two male commentators and a coach writing on a piece of paper
Maezelle Millan CM ’21 dribbles up court in the Athenas’ 71-66 win over Whittier in the SCIAC women’s basketball semifinal game Feb. 27. (Courtesy • CMS Athletics)

Coming off a 71-66 victory against No. 2 Whittier in the conference semifinals, the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps women’s basketball team (19-8, 11-5 SCIAC) fell short against No. 1 Redlands 62-55 in Saturday’s SCIAC championship game.

The first half was a back-and-forth affair that saw nine lead changes. Going into halftime, the Athenas led 30-28. 

The second half was as tightly contested as the first, with the biggest margin being only four points.

While Redlands had a chance to close out the game in the final minute, some late-game heroics kept the Athenas in the contest. 

With the Bulldogs up 50-49 and 15 seconds remaining, Redlands’ Alyssa Downs split a pair of free throws, increasing their lead to two. CMS called a timeout, advanced the ball and tied the game when Lindsey Cleary CM ’20 made a tough layup to send it to overtime.

In the extra period, though, Redlands outscored CMS 11-4 en route to a seven-point victory.

“We did let the emotions get to us in the last game because it was stressful. We were all tense, and at some points, we kind of played like we were losing,” Flora Durgerian CM ’22 said.

Cleary had a monster game for the Athenas, ending with 21 points and 17 rebounds on nine of 10 from the foul stripe.

The Athenas’ semifinal game against Whittier saw their late-game fortune go in their favor, as they were able to maintain their lead and hold off the Poets’ comeback effort.

CMS also enjoyed a balanced scoring attack in that contest, with nine different players putting up points on the board, including 13 from Cleary, 13 from Lauren Longo SC ’20 and 18 from Maezelle Millan CM ’21.

Despite the loss, the returning players are excited for next season, and believe that this season was an important transition year.

“It’s been my favorite season of basketball I’ve ever played. … I think that it’s been a really big learning year as well, as we were obviously really successful,” Durgerian added.

On the other side of the bracket, Pomona-Pitzer (15-11, 10-6 SCIAC) and Redlands also went down to the wire in the semifinals, with the Bulldogs coming out victorious 53-51.

The Bulldogs came out to a five-point lead after one period of play. The Hens kept the game close, though, and going into the fourth, the Bulldogs’ lead was only two.

In the final minute with P-P down two, Renae Tamura PO ’21 split a pair of free throws to bring the game within one. The next possession, Downs also split a pair of free throws, keeping the Sagehens in the game, but P-P failed to convert on the last shot of the game.

Madison Quan PZ ’22 and Tamura led the Sagehens in scoring, finishing with 13 and 14, respectively. Quan also added four steals and six rebounds in the nail-biter.

The Hens suffered from a significant lack of rebounding, as the Bulldogs grabbed 46 rebounds to P-P’s 34.

“They definitely outrebounded us, which hurt us a lot. … That was the biggest part, getting outrebounded hurt us with second chance points. It was close, and we were staying in it the whole time, and it kind of just came down to the end when we didn’t score on our last possession,” Emily Church PO ’23 said.

Nonetheless, Tamura was proud of the way the Sagehens fought.

“Honestly, I think that was probably the best team basketball we’ve played all season,” she said. “Obviously, it wasn’t the outcome we wanted, but the first thing I said was that I was just so proud of everyone because we were the fourth seed, they were the number one seed. Even if we thought we could win, we weren’t expected to win.”

Neither CMS nor P-P received an at-large bid for the NCAA Tournament, so the SCIAC Tournament marks the end of their seasons.

However, the Sagehens expressed excitement for next year, as they won’t be losing any seniors to graduation.

“I don’t think we ever had a game this season where we reached our full, full potential, which is good because next season, we’re not losing any seniors,” Church said. “We’re going to be hopefully better than where we left off.”

“I’m really, really excited, because after the Redlands game, yes, we were sad, but more so we were just ready to go for the next year,” Tamura added. “It really made us want to put in the work over the summer and in the off-season, and then come back really ready to win next year.”

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