Women clutch in close home victories

Louis LaVenture,
News and Sports Editor

Close calls were the theme of the weekend for the Cal State East Bay women’s basketball team.

The Pioneers are now at an impressive 23-4 overall and a nearly perfect 17-2 in California Collegiate Athletic Association Conference games this season after a win at the buzzer and another one that went to overtime. The record has East Bay in first place in the conference with just one regular season game left on the schedule.

“We knew that Saturday was going to be just as tough as Friday night,” senior guard Shannon Bland said. “Being an athlete in that situation we just have to keep our focus. Not play timid and just be smart with the basketball.”

On Friday, the Pioneers went to the buzzer with Cal State Dominguez Hills (18-8 overall, 16-2 conference) and pulled out a last second win thanks to Bland. With the game tied at 57, Bland nailed a jumper with no time left on the clock for the thrilling last second triumph, 59-57.

“I saw three people go with Lacie [Effenberger] on the handoff,” Bland said. “She passed me the ball because I was open… when I caught the ball I saw Breezy [Tori Breshers] fly at me for the shot so I knew I had to get around her, and then I saw their athletic guard come to block my shot so I knew I had to release the ball early, and after that it seemed like a blur.”

East Bay trailed the Toros by as many as 13 points in the fourth quarter but managed to mount a comeback. With 6:55 left on the clock, the Pioneers trailed 51-41 but were able to knock down a few layups and some free throws to cut the lead to 2 points with just under 4 minutes to play. The two teams exchanged buckets before the game-winner by Bland.

She finished with 13 points and 4 assists while Breshers led the way for the Pioneers with 17 points and 5 rebounds in 28 minutes on the floor. Guard Breanne Garcia had a game-high 22 points in the loss for the Toros.

If that wasn’t close enough for CSUEB, Cal State Los Angeles (8-16, 6-12) made sure it was. The Golden Eagles forced the Pioneers into overtime on Saturday, but CSUEB managed to eventually put away CSULA, led this time by Effenberger and Bland. The two senior guards combined for 47 points, 8 rebounds, 8 assists and 5 steals in the 81-69 overtime victory.

“The main key to keep the momentum going into the postseason is to continue trusting in one another,” Breshers said. “We are a very talented group of individuals but we will not go very far into the postseason if we try to excel by ourselves.”

Despite the 7 point halftime advantage for the Pioneers, the Golden Eagles were able to mount a comeback of their own led by senior forward Bree Parsons and sophomore center Rikke Fabricius who compiled 21 and 15 points respectively. CSULA senior forward Geena Greene scored on a layup with 1:57 left that put them up by 3 points.

Green then fouled Bland on the next possession and Bland made one of her two charity stripe shots to cut the lead to 2 points. CSUEB senior forward Bianca Littleton got a steal on the next play and Effenberger found her as she ran the floor for a layup to tie the game at 65 and force overtime. The Pioneers dominated in the extra session and outscored the Golden Eagles 16-4 for the 81-69 win.

Next for the Pioneers is their final home game and senior night on Saturday at 5:30 p.m. at Pioneer Gymnasium when they host the Cal State Monterey Bay Otters who are 9-17 overall this year and 5-14 in CCAA contests. No matter the outcome of the final regular season game, the Pioneers will host a first round playoff match at Pioneer Gymnasium on the Hayward campus on Tuesday at 7 p.m. Their opponent has yet to be determined.