Over the past week, the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps women’s basketball team split its pair of conference games, falling to Chapman University 73-69 on Thursday, Jan. 30, and defeating Whittier College 70-43 on Saturday, Feb. 1. The week’s action brought the Athenas’ record to 17-3 for the season and 9-2 in conference play. CMS now stands just half a game behind Chapman (15-5, 9-2 SCIAC) for first place in SCIAC, with University of Redlands (16-5, 8-3 SCIAC) only a half-game behind them. So far, this season — coach Kristen Dowling’s second at the helm — marks a significant turnaround for the Athenas, who have already far exceeded the team’s 9-16 record from last year.
The tough loss to Chapman a week ago came despite a breakout performance from guard Kris Brackmann CM ’17, who notched a career-high 17 points, as well as a 22-point contribution from point guard Kim Scamman CM ’15, the team’s leading scorer with an average of 14.9 points per game.
The game started off well for the Athenas, with Mara Falahee CM ’16 and Kyra Ray CM ’14 making jump shots to give CMS the early lead. However, Chapman fought back and soon took the lead. The Panthers ran with it for the rest of the half, going into half time up 39-24.
Through the second half, CMS started to claw its way back with the help of clutch free-throw shooting from Madeline Barnes CM ’14, Chloe Dobbert CM ’14, Brackmann, and Scamman. After Scamman sunk a free throw with 1:27 to go, CMS pulled within one point with a score of 64-63. The Panthers were up to the task, though, and Chapman eventually pulled away for the victory.
The loss was the second time Chapman has defeated CMS this season. In fact, the Panthers remain the only SCIAC opponent to defeat the Athenas this year.
“They’re a really good team, but they’re beatable. I think it’s just mental preparation. We have to stay ready throughout the whole game. They out-rebounded us and that shouldn’t happen, but it’s definitely something that comes from within and we can do it,” center Claire Donnelly CM ’17 said.
Against Whittier two days later, however, CMS managed to avoid a repeat loss. This game featured much less drama as the Athenas dominated on both sides of the ball. CMS never trailed throughout the whole game en route to their second victory over the Poets this season. Brackmann came off the bench to lead the team with 16 points and seven rebounds, while Scamman and Barnes also chipped in with 12 and eight points, respectively.
The theme of the game for both teams throughout the night was free throws. Neither defense was able to consistently prevent the opposing side from driving to the basket without drawing a foul. Both teams reached the bonus early in the first half, leading to a high volume of free throws for both teams. However, CMS did find success in forcing Whittier to resort to putting up tough contested shots, limiting the Poets to only 21.6 percent from the field and 16.7 percent from beyond the three-point line.
After the game, coach Dowling explained, “We worry about us and not the opponent, we won the rebounding battle, and that’s a battle we want to continue to win.”
One player who was instrumental in accomplishing that goal was Donnelly, who recorded six rebounds and two blocks that night.
“It all starts in practice, doing drills. I know that rebounding is one of my key contributions, so working on it as hard as I can is key,” Donnelly said.
In the turnover battle, CMS was able to gain another clear advantage. Throughout the night, the Athenas were able to pressure the Poets into rushed decisions, forcing 23 Whittier turnovers, which led to 25 points off turnovers for the Athenas. CMS’s relentless defense resulted in 13 steals for the Athenas, including a game-high four from Dobbert, compared to only four total for Whitter.
This Saturday, February 8, the Athenas look to pick up where they left off as they square off against the seventh-place Pomona-Pitzer Sagehens in a rematch of the epic Sixth Street rivalry. Last time the two squads matched up earlier this season, the Athenas emerged victorious with a score of 61-50. In advance of what is sure to be an intense game, don’t expect any special preparation from the Athenas.
According to Donnelly, “We just have to play our style and stay focused on our own game. We always say ‘one game at a time’ and we don’t really think about the opponent. We just have to play the way the Athenas play.”
That sentiment was echoed by coach Dowling, who remarked, “We’re just going to keep on getting better. We’re excited about our team; we’ve got a great group and we’re just going to keep focusing on us.”