The crowd at Wednesday night’s women’s basketball game didn’t know what they were in for as they filed into an echoey Voelkel gymnasium at Pomona College’s new Center for Athletics, Recreation and Wellness (CARW).
In what ended up being a nail-biting, dramatic last-minute loss, the Pomona-Pitzer (P-P) Sagehens women’s basketball team fell to the Chapman Panthers 66-62 in one of their last home games of the season.
Senior Emily Church PO ’23, who plays forward for the Sagehens, led the team in rebounds that night. Despite the strong performance from the team, the Sagehens couldn’t quite close the gap after suffering a wide deficit early on in the game.
“It’s obviously a tough [result] because we go back and forth with Chapman,” Church said, referencing the Sagehens’ win against the Panthers in January, “but the postseason is still up for grabs.”
The Sagehens went down early in the first quarter, at one point trailing 16-8, but recovered with strong steals and fastbreaks from player Kaitlyn Leung PO ’23. The first quarter ended 22-20 in favor of Chapman.
Chapman started the second quarter strong, scoring twice within the first few minutes to make the score 27-20. The Panthers’ aggressive defense, however, created many free throw opportunities for P-P, which Maison Yee PZ ’25 and Anna Revill PO ’26 capitalized on. Still, the Sagehens were down 39-31 to close out the first half.
The third quarter started off poorly for the Sagehens: after a scoring frenzy by the Panthers, P-P was down by 15 points (48-33). The Sagehens’ head coach Alaina Woo called a timeout which Madison Quan CG ’23 said helped to re-center the team’s focus.
“I think Coach Woo does a really good job of keeping us calm,” Quan said. “She likes to keep us composed, which is super important.”
Woo’s talk must have worked wonders for the Sagehens, who went on to score eight points straight following the break, prompting a call for a timeout by the Panthers. The third quarter ended 59-50 still in favor of Chapman.
P-P kept up their scoring streak at the start of the fourth quarter, coming within one point of the Panthers with the help of individual scoring efforts from Katie Drais PO `26 and Leung, two players who Quan said are instrumental both on and off the court for P-P.
“The energy that [Drais] brings, whether she’s on the bench or on the court, [is] always next-play mentality,” Quan said. “That’s something that we really need on our team because basketball is an emotional sport and you’ll get down on yourself, but Katie’s always there to pick you right back up and when she goes in she makes a huge impact.”
As part of the Sagehens’ large first-year class along with Drais, Kellie Au PO ’26 said it’s especially important to have upperclassmen role models who step up big in the moments when it’s needed.
“Leung is like [the] number one, go-to girl for hustle,” Au said. “She is the heart and hustle of our team.”
The score was 61-60 in favor of Chapman with two minutes left, and the crowd at Voelkel started to get on its feet. The Panthers scored, however, making it 63-60 with 1:19 left on the clock. Two free throws awarded to P-P, both scored by Quan, gave the Sagehens some hope with one minute left. Chapman called for a timeout, starting with the ball afterwards, but P-P stole it and looked to mount a counterattack, but gave the ball away before the attack fully developed.
After a P-P foul, Chapman got two free throws, both of which they missed. Thirty seconds remained in the game — if P-P could score just once, the game would be theirs. Nevertheless, a steal by Chapman made the score 65-62 with three seconds left, and an additional free throw awarded to the Panthers sealed the game, making the final score 66-62.
“I feel like in the last minute, the biggest thing we were thinking was ‘just one more minute, we need to execute a good 30 seconds, just like stuff in practice and then execute on offense’ which we faltered on,” Au said. “But…it comes down to the entire game, not just the last 30 seconds and that [was the message in the] locker room.”
Despite the players being upset about such a tough loss, the atmosphere in the locker room post-game was encouraging and inspiring.
“[Coach Woo] talked a lot about the deficit and getting down by 15 but [being] really proud of us for climbing our way back up,” Quan said. “[It’s] just knowing that we…have to start strong and [that] we have the talent and the ability to do so.”
Quan said the team hopes to carry this confidence through to the end of the season.
“We’ve just gotta push through,” Quan said. “We can’t let one loss bring us down, we’ve gotta learn from what happened tonight … like Coach said in the locker room, the season is up for grabs, so we have to think about it as if this is our opportunity to make the playoffs and I think with our team we can do that.”