The Claremont-Mudd-Scripps women’s basketball team (21-4, 15-1 SCIAC) defeated conference-leading Chapman University (22-3, 15-1 SCIAC) 67-58 in a sensational senior night game Saturday, thanks to a relentless scoring outburst early on.
The victory clinched a share of the SCIAC regular-season championship for CMS, and prevented Chapman from going undefeated in the conference and winning it outright.
The Athenas’ win was particularly impressive because the only SCIAC team CMS lost to earlier in the season was Chapman — the Panthers won 68-56 Jan. 13.
“As a team, we take a lot of pride in dictating the tempo of the game, so in our last Chapman game we really struggled to play at the pace that we typically like to,” senior guard Corinne Bogle CM ’18 said. “We let Chapman control the tempo and that took us away from our game plan.”
CMS head coach Kristen Dowling was impressed with the Athenas’ ability to flip the script on the Panthers this time around.
“This was a completely different game,” Dowling said. “Our team did a great job making offensive and defensive adjustments against Chapman from the first game.”
Because CMS and Redlands were tied in the SCIAC standings, a coin-toss immediately following the game decided the No. 1 seed in the conference postseason tournament. CMS won the toss, and will host the tournament. The tournament champion will receive an automatic bid to the Division III NCAA tournament.
“It feels amazing to be seeded first in the SCIAC tournament,” Bogle said. “For the seniors, we’ve only ever been seeded first so we know how important home court advantage is for the tournament. There’s nothing like being able to play in front of your home crowd, so we look forward to using the crowd’s energy to our advantage.”
The Athenas hit the ground running in the first quarter, jumping out to an early lead and never looking back. Chapman never got closer than five points after Maya Love CM ’20 scored a layup to put CMS up 7-2.
The gap between the two teams continued to grow throughout the game, and by the end of the third quarter, CMS had built a 30-point lead. Ellery Koelker-Wolfe’s CM ’19 free throw with 2:22 remaining marked the moment when the Athenas doubled Chapman’s score at 52-26, a remarkable feat late in the game.
“The third quarter was a big quarter for us,” Kailee Severt CM ’18 said. “There were so many people scoring and assisting and rebounding that it made the game fun for us. That is what team basketball is about.”
While the Athenas held a commanding lead, Chapman put up a valiant effort in the fourth quarter attempting to come back. The Panthers began to pressure CMS in a full-court trap, and forced the Athenas into many turnovers.
However, CMS had created too large of a safety net for the Panthers to overcome. Chapman managed to cut the lead to single digits, but as time expired, the Athenas were able to call themselves co-champions of the SCIAC regular season and cut down the net with a 67-58 victory.
Dowling was ecstatic about the victory, the No. 1 seed, and the team’s performance on senior night.
“This team has been led from start to finish by our three seniors,” Dowling said. “They completed their fourth straight [regular-season] SCIAC championship on Saturday. It has been a joy to coach such a great group of athletes. I am very grateful to be a part of their journey.”
Severt, the team’s leading scorer, reflected after the game on her final year playing CMS women’s basketball.
“I have been so lucky to play with such a great group of girls, who are my sisters that I never had,” she said. “From team dinners to practices to locker room speeches, it has been a senior season I will not forget.”
At the beginning of the season, the team had its share of doubters, but the Athenas have shown growth and maturity.
“I’m so proud of how far we’ve come,” Bogle said. “I think a lot of people wrote us off at the beginning of the year because we lost six seniors from last year that were crucial to the program’s success. We could have made excuses about how young we are, but every single person has stepped up immensely and has pushed themselves to become better.”
CMS will face off in a rematch against Chapman Sat. Feb. 22 in the SCIAC tournament final.