Sagehens Fall Short Against League Leaders Chapman

The Pomona-Pitzer women’s basketball team traveled to Orange County, Calif., on Feb. 15 to face off against Chapman University. In a tightly contested game, in which the Sagehens took a four-point lead into halftime, the Chapman Panthers proved why they are the leading team in SCIAC by pulling a 73-64 victory. 

Although they were no longer in the running for SCIAC playoffs, the Hens approached the game with a positive mentality. 

“We didn’t have much to lose, and [Chapman] had everything to lose, so going in with that added pressure, we just wanted to play our hearts out and do our best and really just focus on that,” Jennifer Okonkwo PO ’16 said.

The Hens played the season with a strikingly young roster; this year, the team has only two juniors and no seniors. The starting five against Chapman were all underclassmen.

“We came in with really young players, so I feel like the program and the team only can grow from here and I think we’re really going in the right direction,” point guard Alaina Woo PO ’17 said. 

P-P went into the Chapman game with a firm understanding of their opponents’ strategies. According to Okonkwo, Chapman relies on turnovers to generate momentum and point production, so P-P wanted to make sure that they kept up a clean and sharp game.

The Panthers are also notorious for their full-court press, which they maintain for most of the game. The Sagehens anticipated this heading into the game, and spent practices focusing on effectively breaking the press. 

Their practice yielded successful results, as the team came out strong and held a solid lead throughout the first half. The Hens looked inside to their post players and encouraged their guards to take initiative as the team fought their way to a 34-30 halftime lead.

Woo was instrumental in breaking Chapman’s press by successfully attacking the middle and taking open shots. She had two crucial three-pointers in the first half that kept Sagehen momentum up and proved to Chapman that P-P was a force to be reckoned with despite their young roster.

“There was never a point in the game where we just broke down and gave up,” Woo said. “I honestly believe it’s one of the best games we’ve played all season.” 

Okonkwo, Basha Brulee-Wills PO ’17, and Amelia Hummel PZ ’16 helped Woo out with a noteworthy 14, 13, and 11 points, respectively. The diverse point distribution demonstrated a greater trend among the team: Everyone posed an offensive threat, and it was difficult for Chapman to shut down the Sagehen offense throughout the game. 

Nevertheless, Chapman was able to come back after halftime due to the depth of experience among their roster of juniors and seniors. Chapman’s Kimi Takaoka led a second-half comeback and evened the score to 47-47. P-P called a timeout in an effort to recollect, but two subsequent Sagehen turnovers made it difficult to reverse Chapman’s momentum. Clinching a 73-64 victory, Chapman improved their record to 18-5, keeping pace with Claremont-Mudd-Scripps.

Despite the final score, P-P remains proud of their showing.

“I think we did lose, but it was one of the first losses of the season where I haven’t felt like, ‘Oh we should have won that or if we had done this, this, and this we could have won that,’” Woo said. “It really felt like we worked our hardest; we put it all on the floor. We were playing to our full potential.”

P-P heads into its final week of play with a 7-15 record, and Woo looks back on the season favorably. 

“I think everyone really enjoyed this year,” she said. “Everyone really gets along off the court, and I think that makes a big difference.”

Okonkwo is also optimistic about next year.

“We will have a year under our belt going into next season, which is going to be so crucial, I think, for the really close games and for chemistry altogether,” she said. “We’ll have an idea of how everyone plays, so now hopefully we can get a lot better.”

P-P will play their final game of the season Feb. 22 against Occidental College. The game tips off at 7 p.m. at Rains Athletic Center. 

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