UCSD Gets NCAA Berth After League Finals Loss

    WOMEN’S BASKETBALL — The California Collegiate Athletic
    Association defending champion UCSD women’s basketball team fell just short of
    a repeat this year with a close loss to No. 18 Chico State in the conference
    championship game on March 8. The game slipped away from the Tritons in the
    last few minutes, ending in a frustrating 69-63 loss to the Wildcats.

    UCSD’s postseason hopes are very much alive, however, as
    they were given a No. 4 seed in the West Regional of the NCAA Division II
    Tournament.

    UCSD made it to the conference championship game by winning
    a close semifinal match against Sonoma State University on March 7 by a score
    of 57-55. After losing to the Wildcats, the Tritons must wait and see if they
    will be selected to the eight-team West Regional tournament that will take
    place March 14-17.

    The championship game was close from the beginning, with the
    teams tying four times in the opening five minutes. With the game tied at 8 and
    14:28 left in the half, junior forward Michelle Osier’s three-point basket
    started a 14-0 run by the Tritons, giving them a 22-8 lead.

    The Wildcats answered back, capitalizing on every turnover
    and missed shot to chip away at the Tritons’ lead. Chico State’s last-second
    layup cut the Tritons lead to 32-27, pulling the Wildcats to within five points
    by the half.

    “We knew it was going to be a tough game since we split our
    games with Chico this season, winning the game that we played at home,” senior
    center Alexis Gaskin said.

    Gaskin started off the second-half scoring with two straight
    baskets, extending UCSD’s lead to 36-27. The Wildcats continued to fight back,
    finally erasing the Tritons’ lead and tying the game at 43 with 11:02 left in
    regulation.

    But the Tritons quickly regained the lead, and seemed to be
    in control of the game, holding a 56-49 lead with 6:36 left in the half.
    Continuing a pattern that held true for the entire game, the Wildcats
    responded, this time taking a 62-61 lead with three minutes left after
    converting on a three-point attempt.

    Gaskin’s jump shot with 1:31 gave the Tritons a one-point
    lead, but that would be the last Triton points of the game. With the Wildcats
    hitting all their remaining shots and Tritons not able to convert on their
    final attempts, the Wildcats were able to pull out the 69-63 win.

    Senior forward Meaghan Noud led all scorers with 21 points,
    while Osier added 14 points for the Tritons. Sophomore guard Annette Ilg scored
    11 points off the bench and Gaskin added eight points and seven rebounds.

    “I’m proud of how we played,” Noud said. “We fought hard
    against a team that is ranked pretty high in our region. We showed that we are
    capable of playing with them until the end.”

    The Tritons won a close game against Sonoma State in the
    second round of the CCAA Championship Tournament that advanced them to the
    championship game. The two teams split their games against each other in the
    regular season and were poised for a tight contest.

    The Seawolves came out of the gates strong, taking a 22-13
    lead with 6:36 left in the half. UCSD closed out the half on a 12-4 run to head
    into the break with some momentum. Sophomore forward Erin Noonan’s
    three-pointer with four seconds left in the half cut Sonoma State’s lead to
    26-25.

    “It was the third time we played them and we knew it was
    going to be tough,” Gaskin said. “We were able to stay together even when they
    started to pull away.”

    The battle continued throught the second half. UCSD used the
    three-ball to keep pace with the Seawolves, as Noonan and Noud took turns
    converting from long range. With 1:45 left, Gaskin’s layup evened the score at
    54. The last two minutes of the game would determine who would be playing for
    the conference championship.

    After taking a 56-55 lead on a layup from Noud, Osier came
    up with a key steal to help the Tritons hold on and win the contest.

    Senior center Diahnn Futalan was the only player off the
    bench to receive significant playing time and all of the Tritons’ points came
    from their five starters. Noud led the team with 19 points, while Noonan added
    13 points and Osier contributed 12 points.

    “It was a really tough game because in the playoffs, every
    team steps it up a notch,” said Noud who, along with Osier, gained CCAA
    All-tournament honors. “We battled it out until the end and that’s why we won.”

    Triton players said they hoped that their experience from
    last season, when they made it all the way to the Elite Eight, will help them
    in their first round matchup in the NCAA Tournament.

    “When you go in to the tournament for the first time, you
    have nerves and jitters,” Gaskin said. “We definitely have a lot of experience
    and we have an idea of what it’s like playing against top teams on a neutral
    court.”

    UCSD will take on fifth-seeded Cal State San Bernardino in a
    first-round game on March 14. The Tritons swept the season series from the
    Coyotes and will look for their third win against them this year, this time
    with much more on the line.

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