Coming off two hard losses to top teams Chapman and Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, the California Lutheran University women’s basketball team bounced back to beat the Pomona-Pitzer Sagehens 57-55 Saturday afternoon in Gilbert Arena.
This win was especially big for the Regals as they honored and celebrated Seniors Nayiri Aslanian and Kiana Gray for their contributions to the program in their final home game.
With a quick start in the first quarter, the Regals played strong defense and pressed the Sagehens for some quick turnovers and scoring opportunities. However, the Sagehnes quickly adapted and took a 15-8 lead going in to the second quarter.
The second quarter proved to be stronger for the Regals, with consistent shooting from forward Kayla Watterson and guard Grace Derksen. Both Aslanian and Gray also saw time on the court in the second quarter. Aslanian brought her voice and leadership, while Gray brought her consistency and calm manner as the game grew to a close 23-22.
Watterson shared a little about what started to click for the Regals and how they applied their pregame mindset on the court.
“After the last time we played the Sagehens, we knew we had a big fire in us to execute this game. We knew we has to pass the ball really well, get the ball to people with mismatches and capitalize on their weaknesses,” Watterson said.
As the Regals closed the gap to a 41-41 tie in the third quarter, freshman forward Tea Carbullido stepped up to make strong contributions from the paint. Teammates Watterson and Derksen continued to lead the Regals, collecting double-digit rebounds combined and also pressed the Sagehens on defense.
The Regals and Sagehens battled for the fourth quarter, pushing for clutch threes and key passes to tie up the game 55-55 with 30 seconds remaining. As the Regals attempted their final play of the game, Gray came up clutch in the paint with five seconds remaining, scoring a game-winning layup to put the Regals ahead 57-55 and win the game.
Gray reflects on her final point collected as a Regal in Gilbert Arena.
“We knew what play we were going in to and I knew the ball was going to be in my hands, so I knew I was going to make some big decisions. I saw a lane to the basket and I took it,” Gray said.
Both Gray and Aslanian were excited with the win and showed gratitude and love for their teammates and the Regals basketball program. Gray shared what she will miss when her four-year run comes to a close.
“Definitely the people, our teammates are just so fun to be around. I’m going to miss basketball in general, the competitiveness and working out every day,” Gray said.
Following tonight’s win, Head Coach Lindsay Samaniego shared how happy she was with the Regals growth over the season and pulling out the win. Samaniego is looking forward to the Regals final games in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC).
“We’re sad that it’s our last week, but we know that these next few games are really important. We’re going to try to go out and give our best effort and do our best to come away with some wins to get ourselves in the tournament,” Samaniego said.
Samaniego also commented on Seniors Gray and Aslanian and their contributions to the program over the years.
“To have seen them grow, especially Kiana who’s been here for four years, to see her transformation as a freshman has been really fun. I’ve known Nayiri for a long time, so we’re really happy to have her back in her last season. She brings so much to our team and our program,” Samaniego said.
Nayiri also shared a few words of wisdom as the Regals head towards their final SCIAC games and hopeful postseason run.
“Win everything, fight and don’t give up,” Nayiri said.
The Regals take on the Caltech Beavers and the Redlands Bulldogs on the road this coming week for their final two SCIAC games. Currently sitting in fourth place, the Regals are hopeful for a chance in the postseason tournament and to face some of their top rivals yet again.