With SCIAC Tournament in Sight, Athenas Defeat Regals

Two years ago, Chloe Dobbert CM ’14, a member of the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps tennis team, was in the training room getting her shoulder worked on when someone Dobbert thought was a student walked in, looked up, and said to Dobbert, “Wow, you’re tall.” Dobbert looked down and thought, “Who are you?” 

As it turns out, the person was Kristen Dowling, the new CMS women’s basketball coach, and she was looking for players to fill the roster. Dowling invited Dobbert to open gym, and even though Dobbert had not played basketball since her first year of high school, she decided to give it a shot. Her height and athleticism caught Dowling’s attention, and the coach offered Dobbert a roster spot. 

Fast-forward two years, and Dobbert is now the team’s starting center and a key contributor to the Athenas’ success this season. 

“Last year was more about small steps,” Dobbert said. “I spent all summer training and bulking up a little bit so I could be stronger and faster because I knew I had to fight for a spot on this team. I’ve had to work hard, but it’s been a great journey.”

Dobbert’s skill was on full display on Saturday, Feb. 22 when the Athenas (22-3, 14-2 SCIAC) defeated California Lutheran University (13-12, 9-7 SCIAC) 60-54. She served as a valuable post presence for CMS all game long, compiling nine points on offense and consistently barring the Regals’ path to the hoop on defense.

Dobbert said that her keys to success included “positioning, sealing well, making sure my feet are always moving, and making sure I’m in the right spots when their guards have all the other players collapse on them.”

The Regals’ post players could have taken some tips from Dobbert. Kim Scamman CM ’15 led the team with 25 points and four steals; Cal Lutheran probably would have had more success stopping a hurricane.

Despite Scamman’s dominance, Cal Lutheran played hard against the Athenas throughout the game. CMS jumped to an early lead, but as the game wore on, the Regals proved to be a worthy opponent, and the Athenas headed back to the locker room after the first half up by only seven points.  

The two teams were pretty evenly matched throughout the second half, though, with Cal Lutheran actually outscoring CMS 32-31 after the break. Suspense continued through the end of the game, with Cal Lutheran using a late surge to pull within three points of the Athenas with 12 seconds to play—but Scamman slammed the door on the Regals’ comeback attempt by nailing three late free throws.

“We really focused on defense,” Dobbert said. “They had special plays planned out for us the first time we played them, so we were really focused on taking away their strong suits and making them uncomfortable. It worked really well in the first half; we had a few hitches in the second half, but we kept them close.”

With the win, CMS clinched a share of the 2014 SCIAC regular season championship, tying with Chapman University for first place. The championship—the team’s first since 2004—has secured the Athenas a berth in the four-team SCIAC playoffs.

Although CMS and Chapman tied for first, Chapman gained the tiebreaker advantage by defeating CMS in both matchups this year. With that, Chapman earned the first seed and faced fourth-seed Cal Lutheran on Thursday, Feb. 27, defeating them 72-68.

At the same time on Thursday, second-seed CMS faced third-seed University of Redlands in the first round of the playoffs. 

CMS has seen success against Redlands before, defeating the Bulldogs in both previous matchups this year.

When asked about a strategy before Thursday’s game, Dobbert seemed confident.

“We need to just keep doing what we’re doing,” she said. “Their leading scorer is a post player, but my strongest suit is post defense. I know that she averages 20 points a game, but against us she’s only gotten 6-8 points, so that’s 12-13 points they’re not going to get. So I’m pretty confident.”

That confidence was not undue; in this latest meeting for the SCIAC semifinals, the Athenas got the best of the Redlands yet again. With 25 seconds left in the game, Scamman made a layup to tie the game at 63 and force overtime. In the extra session, the Athenas outplayed the Bulldogs and held on for an exciting 76-72 win and a spot in the finals against Chapman.

The two big CMS post presences, Dobbert and Claire Donnelly CM ’17, have been key cogs for the Athenas all season.  While the duo may not be the leading scorers on the team, it is only because they are busy doing the dirty work that sets their teammates up for success.

“Coach calls us the blue-collar players because we do all the things that people who don’t watch basketball a lot don’t really understand,” Dobbert said. “The guards are more flashy, but Claire and I will take our five points per game in stride because we worked hard for those points, and our assists and box outs will lead to points for other players.”

Dobbert, Donnelly, and the rest of the Athenas will take on Chapman for the third time this season for the SCIAC title Saturday, March 1. The game will be held at Chapman, and CMS will look for their first win over the Panthers this season. Coming out on top would certainly erase the memory of the previous two losses, as the winner will take home the SCIAC Championship. 

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