Women’s Basketball Struggles Through Tough First Games

After a particularly tough week consisting of two brutal SCIAC games, the Pomona-Pitzer women's basketball team is starting the season with a not-so-ideal record of 0-4. The Sagehens lost to Chapman University at Voelkel Gymnasium on Thursday, Nov. 29 at 66-52 before being blown out at University of Redlands last Saturday at 73-49.

From the onset, the Redlands Bulldogs were virtually flawless, successfully demonstrating why they started 6-0 overall this season with two wins already in the SCIAC. Leading the Bulldogs on offense, Marika Staton scored 18 points in the game as Redlands jumped to an early 14-2 lead. As the first half progressed, the Sagehens seemed to lack any significant offense that could cut down the Bulldog lead. By halftime, the Sagehens found themselves in a nearly insurmountable hole, trailing 42-18.

The Sagehen resilience shone brightly after the break. P-P appeared completely rejuvenated after their poor showing in the first half. The last 20 minutes of the game were played evenly at 31-31, clearly showing the vast potential for the young Sagehen team.

Despite the large Sagehen loss, the team had promising performances from its first-year players. Both Jenn Okonkwo PO ’16 and Juliah Shay Kim PO ’16 had excellent games, and both lead the team with 11 points apiece. Okonkwo, a forward from nearby Rancho Cucamonga, displayed incredible poise for a first-year after the Sagehen deficit in the first half. While the game was clearly out of reach for P-P relatively early in the game, Okonkwo still played tough and had six rebounds to compliment an impressive 5-6 from the foul line. As for Kim, a guard from Bakersfield, Calif., her shooting was nearly impeccable throughout the entirety of the game. She made both her shots from the field and excelled at the foul line where she was 6-7.

Thursday, the Sagehens kept the score close against the unbeaten Chapman Panthers, but they were never able to pull through for a lead or the win. Coming into the game, the Panthers had every reason to be confident, having recently defeated number-two George Fox University. Following an early Chapman lead, P-P fought hard and eventually evened the score at 13-13 with a clutch free throw from Maria Weyhrauch PO ’15. As the tight first half progressed, Chapman rallied off a 7-0 run with the help of two Kimi Takaoka three-pointers to pull ahead by nine, 25-16. The Sagehens didn't let Chapman pull away with the game in the first half, and at halftime the Panthers led 33-22.

In the second half, Chapman revealed the incredible talent that has resulted in a perfect season thus far. An 11-2 run by the Panthers to start the half put P-P down 44-24, nearly dismantling all hopes of winning the game. However, the Sagehens suddenly found some rhythm and quickly cut the Panther lead in half with 9:25 remaining through strong offensive performances by Erin Edmonds PZ ’14 and Ruthie Shapiro PZ ’15. The Panthers pushed through a 6-0 run to put the score at 60-44 and ran away with the win from there. 

Shapiro emerged as a star for the Sagehens, leading the team in points, rebounds and assists against the Chapman Panthers. Playing shooting guard and small forward, Shapiro was only one of two players that participated in all 25 games last season, playing an integral role for the basketball team in 2011-2012. As this season progresses, one should expect Shapiro to expand upon her success from last season and make a significant offensive contribution to the team.

Currently tied with Caltech and Claremont-Mudd-Scripps for last place in the SCIAC, the Sagehens' 0-4 record will make it quite difficult for them to make the playoffs and win the SCIAC title later this season. Luckily for P-P, they have already played two of the toughest teams in the conference, and their games can only get easier from this point forward. With the unceasing resilience that the Sagehens have exhibited so far this season, there is certainly promise that P-P can accomplish a lot.

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