Tritons Advance to CCAA Semis: Women's Basketball

Although their first playoff game proved to be more
nerve-racking than they had hoped, the Tritons came out on top of a nail-biter
against San Francisco State
to advance to the
semifinals of the California Collegiate Athletic Association Championship
Tournament. The Tritons held on to post a 59-56 victory over the visiting
Gators that improved their record to 23-8.

The CCAA quarterfinal game took place only four days after
the Tritons earned a 63-47 victory over the Gators in San
, but bore very little resemblance to that
decisive victory. Junior forward Michelle Osier, whose free throws near the end
of regulation would prove to be the game’s winning points, fittingly opened up
the scoring with two free throws to give the Tritons a 2-0 lead.

Senior forward Meaghan Noud was named to the CCAA All-Conference team after leading UCSD with 16.5 ppg and making a school single-season record 74 treys. (Erik Jepsen/Guardian)

The two teams played a close game for the first several
minutes of the half with the Gators eventually taking their first lead at 16-14
with 10:08 to play in the half. After
sophomore forward Erin Noonan hit a jumper to tie the game at 18, Noonan
suffered a nasty fall while taking a charge for UCSD that sent her to the
locker room for the rest of the game.

The Tritons continued to fight hard without Noonan, pulling
sophomore guards Laura Moore and Annette Ilg off the bench to fill in for the
starting forward. Playing well on both sides of the ball, the Tritons took a
27-20 lead off of senior forward Meaghan Noud’s free throws with 3:59 left in
the half. Osier’s jumper at the end of the period preserved the Tritons’
seven-point advantage as UCSD entered halftime nursing a 31-24 lead over the

The Gators opened up the second half with a three-pointer to
cut UCSD’s lead to four points but Noud responded with her third three-pointer
of the night to give the Tritons a 34-27 lead. Despite several questionable
calls from the referees that put senior center Alexis Gaskin in early foul
trouble, the Tritons managed to extend their lead to open up an 11-point
advantage over the Gators.

“It was tough because it almost seemed like we were fighting
with the refs who were not calling fouls or sometimes calling strange fouls,”
Gaskin said. “Still, we kept it together and kept our composure.”

The Tritons’ double-digit lead did not last long, however,
as the Gators capitalized on UCSD turnovers to chip away at the Tritons’
advantage. With 4:26 left in
regulation, the Gators scored a three-point basket to cut UCSD’s lead to 52-50
and climbed within one possession of the Tritons.

“We definitely didn’t expect them to come back in it,” Osier
said. “We wanted to extend our lead coming out of halftime, but anything can
happen when you play a team for the third time [in a season].”

With the game tied at 56 and less than one minute in
regulation, Gaskin collected the offensive board from Noud’s missed jump shot
and passed the ball to Osier in the post. Osier missed a tough shot, collected
her own rebound and was fouled while putting up another shot. With eight
seconds remaining, Osier knocked down both her free throws to give the Tritons
a 58-56 lead.

The Tritons forced a turnover on the ensuing possession and,
after a San Francisco State
foul, Gaskin hit one of two free throw attempts to extend the Tritons lead to
59-56. The Gators could not convert on a last-second shot attempt, sealing the
victory for the Tritons and sending UCSD to the CCAA semifinals.

Osier had game-high totals of 26 points and 18 rebounds,
including 13 offensive boards. Noud scored 17 points for UCSD and Gaskin added
12 points and nine rebounds.

“This is the playoffs — everybody is at their best,” head
coach Charity Elliott said. “We beat a talented and hardworking team in San
Osier had a phenomenal game with 13 [offensive] rebounds and [senior guard
Alexis] Mezzetta did a great job taking care of the ball. Annette Ilg and Laura
Moore stepped in and Gaskin played well for a huge team win.”

The Tritons’ next game will come against Sonoma
State University

in San Bernardino on March 7 at 12:30 p.m. The two teams split the season
series, with the Tritons posting a 72-59 victory at home in the most recent of
the two meetings.

Sonoma’s a very
talented team,” Elliott said. “We split with them this season and I expect it
to be 40 minutes of battle.”

The winner of that contest and the winner of the following
game between Chico State
and Cal Poly Pomona will
face off on March 8 in the CCAA Championship game.