Last-Second Heartbreak for Women’s Basketball vs. Long Beach

Fresh off a win against the University of Hawaii, the UC San Diego women’s basketball team’s hopes to build on last week’s success were dashed at the last second by California State University, Long Beach this past Thursday evening in a limited-attendance RIMAC arena match. In a tight, high-energy game that truly went down to the wire, the visitors stole the victory with a dramatic 3-pointer on 12 seconds to eke out a 60–59 final result, delivering disappointment to the Tritons in their first home game since Feb. 5.

The Beach opened the scoring with a 3-pointer and layup in under three minutes to put the home side at a disadvantage from the jump. UCSD responded with a 3-pointer of their own, courtesy of senior guard Sydney Brown. The teams traded points for the rest of the quarter, with senior guard Emily Cangelosi and sophomore guard Parker Montgomery each getting on the scoresheet with 4 points each. However, despite these efforts, the Tritons were trailing throughout the entirety of the first quarter, unable to catch up after falling behind so early in the game; the period ended 18–11 to the Beach.

Cangelosi started the second quarter for the Tritons early, putting up a 3-pointer in the first 11 seconds. UCSD continued to narrow the lead with a layup from freshman center Bridget Mullings and a jumper from senior guard Julia Macabuhay, though the Beach continued to heap on the pressure and return the favor. It wasn’t until about halfway through the period when a 3-pointer from senior guard Madison Baxter finally broke the visitors’ lead, putting the Tritons ahead for the first time in the game. It was not to last, though, as the Beach scored 8 points in the last 3 minutes of the period to retake the advantage, despite sophomore forward Aishah Brown and Parker Montgomery contributing a layup and a 3-pointer, respectively, for the hosts; the Tritons were down 33–29 at halftime.

The second half saw a turnaround for UCSD, who came out of the locker room with a steely determination, following their frustrating first half with a sharper performance in the second. Although CSULB was first to score, a trio of layups by Sydney Brown, Emily Cangelosi and Aishah Brown combined with another pair of 3-pointers from Madison Baxter to pull the Tritons back into the lead just over 3 minutes into the quarter. The hosts held onto this edge until the clock ran down, withstanding a 4-minute period in which neither team managed to score before Baxter’s fourth 3-pointer of the night and a layup from Aishah Brown pinned down UCSD’s advantage going into the final quarter, 46–43. 

The fourth period continued to be a tight game, with the Tritons holding onto their lead until the very last few seconds. By this time, the home crowd had gotten more energetic and was electrifying the atmosphere in the gym. Aishah Brown netted a pair of free throws for UCSD to begin a back-and-forth rally between the teams, in which she, Sydney Brown, and Julia Macabuhay all contributed to the Tritons’ 13 points in the period. The Beach themselves scored 17 in the last quarter, steadily chipping away at UCSD’s lead, but it seemed that the home side would be able to hold on until the clock ran down. However, a dagger 3-pointer from CSULB’s Kian Hamilton-Fisher snatched the lead away from under the Tritons’ noses with 12 seconds left on the clock. After calling a timeout, UCSD frantically attacked the opposition net, attempting but missing 3 consecutive layups before the final buzzer sealed their heartbreak, 60–59 to CSULB.

It was undoubtedly a frustrating result for UCSD. After a first half that saw a number of missed opportunities, the third period brought another level of determination that looked to be enough to take back the lead, and then the game. Despite the disappointing final score, a number of Tritons logged quality individual performances: Aishah Brown put together a double-double of 12 points and 13 rebounds, her third this season; Madison Baxter, Aishah Brown and Sydney Brown led the scoring together on the night with 12 points each; and senior guard Brianna Claros and Parker Montgomery notched 5 assists and 3 steals, respectively.

Speaking after the game, Triton head coach Heidi VanDerveer expressed disappointment at the evening’s missed opportunities and commended her team’s effort and tenacity: “I think our team really showed a tremendous amount of character and competitiveness, especially in the second half. I think that in the first half, we really … gave up some easy baskets in transition … but in the second half I thought that we did a much better job of really defending and rebounding, and then we just couldn’t get that last shot to fall.”

This game was dedicated to the Black Lives Matter Movement and its commitment to fighting the systemic racism, injustices and violence against Black communities present in our society today. 

Coach VanDerveer also spoke on this dedication and the importance of addressing these issues:

“I think that obviously the game is relevant, but honestly in the bigger picture, it’s totally less relevant than the fact that we can’t come to grips with the systemic racism and inequality. It’s mind-boggling. You look at our world specifically. I think that it can’t just be a one-night thing, it can’t be a month thing. It has to be something that, every day there’s education, there is change. [It is important] that people are really coming together and understanding how important humanity is — not race, not any of the -isms, especially racism — and specifically Black Lives Matter.”

The Tritons next took on California State University, Fullerton the following Saturday on the road at the Titans’ home court. They rebounded from their disappointing loss on Thursday to take the win, 78–72. Their next game will be another home tie against California State University, Bakersfield on Thursday, Mar. 3, where they will hope to turn this win into a streak, as well as complete the double over CSUB after beating them away earlier in the season.

UC San Diego Athletics Black Lives Matter resource and information page:
https://ucsdtritons.com/sports/2020/8/29/black-lives-matter.aspx

Image courtesy of Derrick Tuskan / UC San Diego Athletics