Having already secured a spot in the NCAA Division II National Tournament, the No. 1 UCSD Women’s Basketball team fell last Friday, March 1 against a Cal State Los Angeles squad that found itself in a win or go home situation, and who was ultimately better on the night.

“[Cal State Los Angeles is] fighting for its season and we didn’t match them,” senior guard Chelsea Carlisle said. “They did the little things that they needed to, and they had a little extra something and I don’t think we had that tonight.”

In the second leg of the CCAA Conference tournament, the Tritons, having squandered an eight-point lead early in the second half, found themselves in their closest match of the season. Fatigue figured on both benches, forcing UCSD head coach Charity Elliott to pull from her reserves as neither team conceded to dropping tempo.

No one has questioned the strength of UCSD’s starting five — four of whom were named to the All-CCAA First Team — but it was the periods of time when All-CCAA selections Carlisle, senior guard Daisy Feder and junior guard Emily Osga weren’t on the court that the Golden Eagles were able to cut the Triton lead.

Up 42-34, Cal State Los Angeles guard Tessondra Williams and 6’0” power forward Lacy Ramon teamed to cut the lead to one-point just four minutes into the second half. 

The rest of the game was a battle for the Tritons to find a way to stop Williams and Ramon — whose ability to alternatively post up or score off the dribble put her at an advantage over UCSD’s shorter guard Megan Perry and slower senior forward Lauren Freidenberg. 

The Golden Eagles shot out to a seven-point lead after Ramon drove to the bucket and turned around to pick off the Triton inbound pass for a quick field goal. 

Surprisingly, Elliott elected to field Perry in place of Freidenberg, still down with just three minutes left to play. But the Tritons went on a 7-1 run to take a narrow 71-69 lead. Osga drove to the basket to put UCSD up by four points before Cal State Los Angeles head coach Janell Jones called a time out. 

The Golden Eagles put together five points before Osga took back the lead with a big layup.

Up 75-74, Cal State Los Angeles failed to convert on four consecutive rebounds, ending the possession with UCSD inbounding from the Golden Eagle baseline. 

Elliott drew up a risky but ultimately effective play, with sophomore forward Erin Dautremont lobbing the ball down court to Osga, who ate up the clock before she was fouled and sent to the line. Osga missed the first, but sunk her second attempt with 3.8 seconds left on the clock.

Jones called another timeout to put senior guard Lorin Hammer on the court, who only played five minutes on the night. 

The Golden Eagles ran the baseline, finding Hammer up towards the half court line. Hammer put the ball down on the court twice before she chanced a three-pointer from 40 feet out. The ball dropped to give the Golden Eagles the win with 0.1 seconds left on the clock.

“That’s something I practice every day after practice,” Hammer said. “After practice I stay in there just throwing up shots just hoping that one day if I get the chance it will go in. The funny thing is that when I went in, I told my teammate [Ramon], that if I get the shot I told her it’s going in.”

Cal State Los Angeles advanced to the CCAA Championship title game the following day, but fell to Cal State Monterey Bay 79-61.

Despite the loss, the Tritons remain with only two losses on the season and have already clinched a place in the NCAA Division II tournament. 

But without a conference title, UCSD may have lost the opportunity to host the first round of the West Regionals. 

“I think at times things have come too easy for us, and that’s unfortunate,” Elliott said. “The good news is we get to play again, and we’re just going to start over. It would have been amazing to win a conference tournament in our building. But it wasn’t meant to be. That kid hit a crazy shot. It wasn’t meant to be.”

The Tritons return to the court this Friday, March 9 at 7:30 pm, when they will host the first round of the NCAA Division II National Tournament. 

It was announced on Sunday, March 4 that UCSD qualified for the 64-team tournament along with CCAA members Cal Poly Pomona, CSU Los Angeles and CCAA Champions CSU Monterey Bay.

“We don’t get another do over, the next loss ends it all,” Elliott said.

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