Lady Tritons Asked to Dance

With wins over San Francisco State and Sonoma State on March 3 and 4, the No. 23 UCSD women’s basketball team finished off its regular season with the same flying colors it has been waving proudly all season long. The team’s two major winning streaks of 11 games and then eight straight to close out the year gave the Tritons a 23-4 overall record and a mark of 17-3 in California Collegiate Athletic Association play. With their program-best Division-II record, the Tritons earned a No. 4 seed in the upcoming National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament and will face Seattle Pacific University on March. 10 for a chance to move closer to the D-II title game.

Kunal Sukhija/Guardian

UCSD head coach Janelle Jones complimented her team’s dedication throughout the season.

“The girls followed the concept of ‘first to believe,’” she said. “Their work ethic, competitive spirit, unselfish play and ability to stay smart on the court created an environment for them to be successful in. I don’t think anyone thought they would do as well as they did. They have exceeded all expectations.”

The women continued to impress the fans, as well as their coach, with an impressive 69-54 win over Sonoma State on March 4, one day after dominating San Francisco State 94-55. The wins, the team’s seventh and eighth straight, closed out the season on a high note as the players broke many team and individual records in the historic season.

Junior guard Kim Buffum became the all-time three-point shooting leader in UCSD history, reaching 161 total three-pointers on March 3 and surpassing the 1993-97 record by Cindy Yamasaki. Also, junior guard Leora Juster became the all-time scoring leader in UCSD women’s basketball history when she earned 32 points against Sonoma State. Juster’s fourth 30-point game this year gave her 1,311 points, surpassing Ali Ginn’s previous record of 1,308.

Jones was overjoyed at all of her players’ accomplishments, but emphasizes once again an essential component of any successful sports team: teamwork.

“Leora, Briana [Peters] and Kim all had individual records they broke, but I believe all of them would agree that the team success is far more important than the individual achievements,” Jones said. “Team chemistry can carry you further than any X’s or O’s.”

Team chemistry led to the Tritons’ convincing win over the Gators. San Francisco State fell behind at the start of the game as UCSD jumped to a 4-0 lead that extended to 22 points by halftime. The Gators never found a way to get back into the game as the Tritons pounded the ball by them for endless swoops of the basket, due much in part to Hillary Hansen’s career-high 21 points, 17 points from Juster and another 15 from Michelle Osier. Osier also dished out seven boards, three steals, two assists and two blocks.

“The girls bought in to working hard on their defense to generate points,” Jones said. “Offense comes and goes, but defense can be there every night because it [comes] from desire, hard work and team commitment.”

The players were committed to winning their last four games before playoffs, and with much sweat and determination, they achieved their short-term goal. After closing out the season winning eight straight, the Tritons earned a No. 4 seed in the NCAA Division-II Tournament West Region and will face Seattle Pacific.

Although a top ranking is good for the team, Jones wants to make sure that her team maintains focus on a championship, not just an appearance and quick exit out of the tournament.

“We do not want to approach it as just, ‘We’re so happy to be here,’” Jones said. “We came here to fight a battle and win. The game plan does not change.”