Midway through the game, the ball goes up into the air and comes down into the hands of a Pomona-Pitzer Sagehen, but suddenly Claremont-Mudd-Scripps point guard Kim Scamman CM ’15 muscles the ball away from her opponent’s grasp and heads the other way. This play was a microcosm of the entire night for the two teams as the Athenas, due in large part to this relentless defense and hustle, were able to collect 14 steals and capture the 63-48 victory over the Sagehens.
The win was the Athenas’ second over the Sagehens this season, following a 61-50 game on Dec. 12. The win boosted the Athenas’ overall record to 18-3 and 10-2 in SCIAC, while P-P fell to 7-13 (5-8 conference). CMS is now tied with Chapman University for first place in the SCIAC standings, while P-P sits in a tie for sixth place with Occidental College.
The Athenas’ strong defense, led by Scamman with six steals, was a huge contributor to their triumph over the Sagehens.
“We don’t necessarily focus on steals, but we focus a lot on defense and help defense, and we just feel like by being in the gap and helping your teammates out, that will just come with steals and buckets,” Scamman said after the game. “Offense wins games, but defense wins championships, so we just focus on defense and know that our offense will come.”
During the game, the Athenas received a scoring boost from two first-years off the bench. Kris Brackmann CM ’17 scored 14 points for the Athenas, and Claire Donnelly CM ’17 pitched in 13 as well.
For P-P, forwards Jenn Okwonko PO ’16 and Amelia Hummel PZ ’16 led the way with 19 and 11 points, respectively.
The Athenas came out of the gates with impressive defensive pressure, swiping three early steals from the Sagehens. However, neither team was able to score for the first two minutes and four seconds of the game until Scamman sunk a three.
Capitalizing on this momentum, CMS jumped out to an early 8-0 lead after Donnelly hit two free throws and Brackmann hit another three. P-P didn’t get their first points until Hummel knocked down a jump shot at the 15:52 mark.
Despite an active start from Okwonko, who made sure she was involved in the paint, CMS maintained their lead by a pretty healthy margin throughout the first half, heading into the break up 28-17.
The Sagehens refused to go down without a fight, though. They played their best stretch of the game early in the second half, taking advantage of their momentum to reduce their deficit to only four points.
Okwonko’s physical presence down low was key for the Sagehens: After Hummel hit a jump shot to open up the second half, Okwonko scored seven points during the Sagehens’ run by taking advantage of her size to draw fouls and get to the line, where she converted her free throws. Okwonko finished the game 13 of 17 from the charity stripe.
However, after Madeline Barnes SC ’14 hit a three-pointer to halt P-P’s charge, CMS was able to regain composure and rebuild their lead to a comfortable margin. CMS started to find their groove by taking advantage of crisp passes, especially by guard Jai Dungca CM ’17, to create open shots for their teammates. Brackmann was feeling it from deep, hitting all four of her three-point attempts.
As the game was starting to slip away from the Sagehens, Alaina Woo PO ’17 provided a brief spark for P-P by alertly stealing an inbound pass from the Athenas to get an easy bucket. However, it was not enough to get the Sagehens back in the game, and, after briefly resorting to fouling the Athenas to stop the clock, the Sagehens ceded victory.
Despite this week’s loss to the Athenas, the Sagehens have already won as many conference games as they did last year, with three games left to play.
In addition, many underclassmen have emerged as significant contributors to the team, and P-P is certainly not lacking experience courtside with coach Kathleen Connell at the helm. The Hens have continued to improve all season, and look to finish on a high note.
The Athenas play next at home against University of La Verne on Saturday, Feb. 15, at 7:30 p.m. The Sagehens’ next matchup is also on Saturday, as they square off against the first-place Chapman Panthers at 7:00 p.m. on the road.