At the end of the day, it looks like it is going to be tough to beat the Greek goddess of wisdom and military victory on the basketball court. On Feb. 15, the University of La Verne Leopards gave it their best shot, sticking with the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Athenas for a large part of the game, but eventually CMS pulled away to defeat the Leopards 74-51. The victory kept CMS (20-3, 12-2) in a tie for first place in the SCIAC standings with Chapman University.
When the game first started, the basket did not actually expand to the size of a bathtub—it just seemed that way to the Athenas, who blitzed the Leopards with intensity and raced out to an 11-3 lead early in the game.
The Leopards quickly clawed their way back into the thick of it, however, and soon tied the game 16-16. For the rest of the half, the teams battled back and forth. Whenever it seemed as though CMS might pull away, La Verne answered right back, and at the end of the first 20 minutes of play, the Athenas only led 29-27.
“One thing we didn’t expect was that they played pretty rough, but before every game our coach gives us a scouting report and puts stars next to the players who she knows are their key players,” guard Jai Dungca CM ’17 said. “For that game it was Lindsey Foster, so we had to stop her, and I think we did pretty well with that.”
True to Dungca’s assessment, CMS held Foster to only five points throughout the game.
After Kyra Ray SC ’14 kicked off the second half by nailing a three-pointer, La Verne hung tough for the first couple minutes, but CMS was able to build and maintain a sizable lead for the rest of the game.
“Our starters really set the mood for the second half by starting it off with a spark to help us to pull away,” Dungca said.
Throughout the game, guard Maddy Barnes SC ’14 was about as hot as the sun, sinking four three-pointers in the second half to carry the Athenas to victory. Barnes, who exploded for a team-high 22 points, seems to have La Verne figured out; the last time these two teams faced off—in a game CMS won by a similar score of 73-57—Barnes had a season-high 29 points.
In fact, the whole team was feeling it from deep, as CMS shot 10-17 from the three-point range throughout the game. Point guard Kim Scamman CM ’15 was her usual productive self, narrowly missing a triple-double by scoring 15 points, grabbing 12 rebounds, and dishing out eight assists.
The main result of the Athenas’ relentless defense and hustle is the high volume of turnovers that they are able to force, and this game was no exception: The team forced La Verne to turn the ball over 21 times.
Dungca’s hustle and crisp passing has proven invaluable for the team.
“Since I’m really good at being fast, I work on being under control and jump stopping, because once I get into the middle of the key, it’s like I’m surrounded by trees because everyone is so tall,” she said. “There’s no point in running into trees if I’m just going to get blocked, so that’s when I kick out.”
In the end, the balanced Athena rotation proved too tough for the Leopards, and CMS extended their winning streak to five games.
CMS enjoyed another comfortable victory, 66-37, over the California Institute of Technology on Feb. 13. The Athenas received contributions from many different players throughout the game, with no one player taking over. Barnes led the team with 10 points, but in general the scoring load was spread pretty evenly across the roster. Two younger players, Lauren Mott CM ’17 and Ty Wheatly Amaya CM ’17, chipped in with seven and six points, respectively.
The Athenas played their final home game of the season and last regular season home game ever in Ducey Gymnasium on Feb. 20, beating Redlands 55-47. They will play their final game of the season on Feb. 22 at California Lutheran University.
If the current standings hold, the Athenas are poised to participate in the SCIAC playoffs, for which the top four teams in the league qualify. Stiff competition will await CMS in the playoffs, but the team hopes to maintain their momentum and bear out the fact that the goddess Athena is usually accompanied by Nike, the goddess of victory.