Coming off of a successful regular season and conference tournament, the CLU Regals basketball team saw seven seniors play their last game in the gold and purple on Friday night.
California Lutheran University took on Whitman College in the first round of the NCAA Division III playoffs, a game that didn’t end the way the Regals hoped.
Whitman jumped out to an early 21-8 lead over CLU after the Regals could not capitalize on open shots and fell victim to turnovers. Whitman seemed as if they could not miss, with four of their five starters scoring at least once in the first 10 minutes of play.
“Tonight’s performance was not our best,” said sophomore guard Natalie Stone. “We didn’t execute and we got off to a slow start. We weren’t playing Regal basketball.”
CLU senior guards Starla Wright and Jazmyne Porter provided some momentum for the Regals late in the first. Both sunk their free throws, after being fouled, bringing the score to 18-33 before halftime.
“Offensive execution was solid early in the game because we did a fair job of drawing fouls and getting to the free throw line where we shot well,” said head coach Roy Dow.
In the final 20 minutes of their career, the CLU seniors came out with a purpose. Wright opened the second half with a layup, followed by a three-pointer from Porter off an assist from senior point guard Alex Nelson. Senior forward Channing Fleischmann pitched in with a huge block under the basketball a few minutes later. However, the Regals went cold on offense as they shot just 7-31 from the field and 1-10 from beyond the arc. They lost 37-61.
“I think Alex played her butt off and Jazmyne was our only offensive spark. Starla put pressure on the rim and scored some tough baskets, and Rachel [Heagy] was strong, confident and played well,” said Fleischmann, who finished with two points, five rebounds, one block and a steal.
Despite a disappointing end to the seniors’ careers, the players have much to look back on and celebrate.
“This senior class means absolutely everything in every imaginable facet of a highly successful team,” said Dow. “The best single-season victory total, the second best four-year victory total, back-to-back NCAA appearances, two consecutive SCIAC Tournament Championships and one regular season SCIAC Championship.”
While most of the seniors will be hanging up their basketball shoes and turning in their jerseys for the last time, they will continue to be part of the team.
“Playing at CLU has meant a lot,” said Fleischmann. “I didn’t know if I was even going to play at the college level, but having this opportunity was one I won’t forget.”
While next year’s team will still have lots of talent and leadership, it is clear that Fleischmann, Porter, Wright, Nelson, Heagy, Taylor Autry and Erica Whitley will surely be missed.
“This senior class meant so much to me personally, and so much to the program,” said Stone. “These girls are some of my best friends and I am so lucky to have been able to play with these girls and learn basketball from these seniors.”
Published March 6, 2013