Regals basketball team are SCIAC champions

The newly crowned regular season champion Regals beat both Occidental and Chapman this weekend earning them a SCIAC tournament championship as well.

The victory on Saturday guaranteed the Regals an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament.

For a team made up of seven seniors, this win signifies four years of hard work and dedication. For senior center Channing Fleischmann, it’s been a dream season.

“It feels amazing. This being my last year playing organized basketball I couldn’t have asked for a better ending. And I definitely don’t want it to end here,” said Fleischmann.

Saturday’s win for the Regals matches the most wins the Regals basketball team has ever had in one season with 23 wins. But the girls are not satisfied with just winning the SCIAC league and tournament title. They are looking forward to making some noise in the playoffs. Although sidelined with a torn ACL, senior guard Erica Whitley believes she and her teammates have what it takes to make a deep run in the NCAA playoffs.

“I honestly think we can go as far as we want. We’ve played great teams before, and now that this is our second time heading to the NCAA tournament we know not to be nervous. It’s just another game,” said Whitley.

To get to the championship game, the Regal’s survived a nail-bitter against Occidental. Thursday’s match up marked the third time that the teams played each other this season. The first two meetings between the Regals and Tigers proved to be classics.

The Regals prevailed in game one, 70-68 with Channing Fleischmann leading the way with 15 points. In the second match, in front of a packed house at Occidental’s Rush Gymnasium, the Regals rallied from a second half deficit to secure a 53-49 victory over Oxy.

All signs going into the first round SCIAC tournament match up showed that we were in for another great game between the top two teams in the conference.

This year’s first round match up was nip and tuck throughout the entire game. Senior shooting guard Starla Wright gave the Regals a 30-27 lead going  into the half when she grabbed a rebound and layed it up, beating the buzzer to end the first half.

In the second half the Regals came out focused and ready to play as they jumped out to a seven point lead, thanks to sharp shooting by sophomore guard Natalie Stone, before Occidental slowly began to rally back and ate away at the Regals’ lead.

Occidental eventually tied the game at 60 with 14 seconds left in the game. The Regals’ Alex Nelson had a shot at being the hero but her 3-point attempt at the buzzer rimmed out, sending the game into overtime.

It was only fitting the third game be decided in overtime. In the extra time, the Regals showed the poise and consistency of a championship team as they led the majority of the final five minutes. With only 14.1 seconds left   Keeley Anderson hit one of two free throws to give the Regals a 69-67 lead. But the game wasn’t over. The Tigers  3-point attempt at the buzzer was partially blocked by Nelson, helping the Regals advance to the finals.

Wright and Fleischmann both posted double doubles for the Regals. Wright led in scoring with 20 points and pulled down 13 rebounds. Fleischmann added 17 points and 13 rebounds.

The victory brought Chapman to Gilbert Arena for the tournament championship. The two teams split the season series. Chapman won the first game 75-71 and the Regals won the second contest 52-49. Going into the game, Wright was confident in her team.

“We split the season series and the second game definitely set the tone heading into this game. We feel confident. They pressure a lot, we now know how they pressure and are ready for it,” said Wright.
Early on things looked bad when the Regals fell behind to Chapman 14-3 with 13:40 left in the first half. Chapman came out fired up and ready to play. They used a 10-1 run to jump out to an early lead over the Regals. The Regals offense answered with seven straight points only to have Chapman answer right back making the score 18-10.

Chapman’s eight-point lead proved to be the largest of the contest. With over five minutes left in the first half, Wright drove hard to the basket and layed in the second of her two buckets in the half to tie things at 19. The half ended with a long three-pointer converted by the Panthers, giving them a 26-23 edge.

The Regals stormed back to open the second half when Fleischmann hit a three-pointer. Stone followed with a layup of her own  and a pair of free throws from Fleischmann were good. Layups by Jazmyne Porter and Wright turned the deficit into a seven-point CLU lead with 13:18 in the game.

The Panthers showed resilience and hit a jumper to give them the lead at 38-37. Chapman’s one-point lead proved to be their last. Porter got the Cal Lutheran fans going when she drove through two Chapman defenders for a layup and also drew the foul. She went to the line and converted to complete the three-point play.

Chapman kept things close when one of their players pulled up and hit a three-pointer with seven minutes left in the game, tying it at 40. But this was the Regals’ game, and they finished out the final seven minutes strong. With 2:41 left in the game, Fleischmann scored from long range on an assist from Stone. The last minute of the game saw a number of fouls from Chapman, who was trying everything to extend their season. The Regals had a strong game from the free-throw line going 9-for-10 at the end of the game.

The Regals led 52-49 with 43 seconds to play after Fleischmann hit two free throws from the line, when Porter lost the ball under the Panthers’ basket. Unfazed, Porter turned around and immediately forced a turnover. Stone was fouled and sent to the charity stripe where she knocked down both of her free throws, making it a two possession game with 20 seconds left to play. Porter added insurance for the Regals by knocking down a shot with 13 seconds left to make it a seven-point game, securing the Regals a victory and tournament championship.

As they look ahead to the NCAA’s, Fleischmann and Whitley believe a key factor will be their execution on both ends of the floor.

“A key is definitely to continue to execute on offense and defensively continue to take things away from teams. We need to build on the strong foundations we have set and continue to get better,” said Fleischmann.

The Regals will travel to Oregon on March 1 to take on No. 25 Whitman College in the first round of the NCAA tournament.


Anthony Goodman Jr.
Staff Writer
Published Feb. 27, 2013