Down-Low Dominance Powers Hens to First Win of the Season

The Pomona-Pitzer women’s basketball team (1-4) was hard at work over Thanksgiving Break, playing three games over five days. Although the weekend was not as
successful as they hoped, the Hens were able to pick up their first win of the
season and make strides toward the goal of competing in the SCIAC tournament next semester.

After two close
losses to Pacific Lutheran University and La Sierra University, the Hens were
adamant about getting a tally in the win column. This meant focusing in
practice on what they needed to improve on most: defense.

“We looked over
what we did wrong, and I think we just let up on defense too much,” forward Basha Brulee-Wills PZ ’17 said. “We need to
not let up on defense no matter the score or how the rest of the game has been
going.”

With this defensive
tenacity in mind, the Sagehens headed into their first game of the week on Tuesday, Nov. 25, against the Linfield College Wildcats (5-2) from McMinnville, Ore. Brulee-Wills put the Sagehens on the
scoreboard with a free throw in the first minute, and the team never looked
back. P-P held onto the lead for the rest of the game, locking down
on defense to capture their first win.

Even with the
strong defensive showing, the Hens still had to put the ball in the basket.

“What led us to
win was a nice balance of outside shots as well as inside game,” Brulee-Wills said. “For example, our
point guard, Alaina Woo [PO ’17], had 14 points.”

On top of Woo’s 14
points, both Jenn Okonkwo PO ’16 and Brulee-Wills had double-doubles with 20
points, 11 rebounds and 19 points, 15 rebounds, respectively. This combined
effort led P-P to a 69-50 stomping of the Wildcats.

The Hens then had
a quick two-day break from basketball to recover and prepare for back-to-back
games on Friday and Saturday.

P-P’s first post-Thanksgiving match took place Nov. 28 against the Banana Slugs of the University of California, Santa Cruz (5-1). The Sagehens came out strong once again, battling both inside and outside to cinch a 29-25 lead at
halftime. However, reminiscent of their Nov. 15 game against Pacific Lutheran, the Hens
were unable to hold onto the lead. With four three-pointers in the last six
minutes, the Slugs were able to inch past the Sagehens with
a final score of 62-56.

Brulee-Wills and
Okonkwo again led the team in scoring with 18 and 16 points, respectively. Forward
Amelia Hummel PZ ’16 dished out seven assists, leading all players in assists.

Although
frustrated with the loss, head coach Kathy Connell was pleased with individual performances,
specifically that of Okonkwo.

“Jenn had a
monster game against Santa Cruz,” Connell said. “She’s pretty unstoppable when
she’s on her game.”

For their final
game of the week, the P-P women took on Augsburg College (4-2) from Minneapolis. Although leading for the first few minutes, the Auggies soon went on
a 16-6 run in the middle of the first half. After this, the Hens were
unable to retain the lead, trailing 32-19 at half and ultimately falling to
their opponents 67-50.

While maintaining
a strong defensive effort against Linfield, the Hens admit that they were
unable to keep up the intensity in the last two games.

“I hate to sound
repetitive, but we need to work on defense,” Brulee-Wills said. “But we
definitely learned from those two games that defense is the most important
thing.”

Three Hens scored
in double figures against the Auggies, including Brulee-Wills, Hummel and Cassandra Palmer PO ’18 with 12, 12 and 10 points, respectively.

As with any
college program, the future lies with the first-years, and Connell is thrilled
with their effort so far.

“They’re doing
quite well actually,” Connell said. “Anya Quig [PZ ’18] is starting and has a great basketball
IQ. Palmer had 10 points against Augsburg, so we’re trying to give her more
minutes. And Hannah Green [PO ’18] is really coming along well, getting used to
the more physical college game.”  

In P-P’s 70-53 loss to La Sierra University on Thursday, Dec. 4, Quig led the team with five assists, but it was again the dominant down-low players who had big games. Okonkwo had another double-double with 16 points and 10 boards, as Brulee-Wills was one rebound short of matching Okonkwo with 16 points and 9 boards. Hummel added 10 points for the Sagehens, but the play of the three forwards was not enough to overcome a 39-21 halftime deficit.

The Hens will take on Biola University for their only away game of the month Tuesday, Dec. 9.

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