After struggling early in the pre-season, the Long Beach State women’s basketball team has found its groove in conference play, winning its first two games. The team’s four-game win streak was improved Thursday night after taking down Cal Poly, 61-58.
The game was decided by free throws late in the fourth, with freshman guard Justina King’s last shots sealing the win.
Long Beach (5-10, 2-0 Big West) got off to a dominant start behind sophomore guard Shanaijah Davison, who fueled the offense from the start of the game. Her aggressive play and drives to the basket gave the 49ers a five-point lead in the first six minutes of the game.
Cal Poly (4-10, 1-2 Big West) responded in the second quarter, silencing Long Beach’s scorers and quickly racking up a 10-0 run. Davison and sophomore forward Naomi Hunt refused to go down without a fight, and earned quick points for Long Beach, making it a one possession game.
Just when Long Beach was beginning to click offensively, Davison hit the floor after fighting for a rebound and was helped off the court. Rather than becoming discouraged, the 49ers responded with more aggression , playing tougher defense and drawing fouls from the Mustangs to make up for the poor offense.
“That’s the game of basketball, someone will go down but Shanaijah is resilient, she’s tough, she’s been dealing with an ankle injury. People don’t know but she’s been playing on it,” head coach Jeff Cammon said. “It’s tough when you lose any of your kids, especially one of your best scorers but you have to give it to our young ladies for not backing down and giving into the moment but turning it up another level.”
King and Hunt filled the gap Davison left, earning a couple of three pointers and keeping up the momentum.
Davison checked back into the game in the third quarter wearing an ankle brace on her left leg and finished the game with 16 points.
It became a free-throw contest in the fourth quarter as both teams became more aggressive and got to the line 14 times. The game started clicking for the 49ers, and the team was able to make four-of-six of its free throws and keep up with the Mustang’s rebounding, something the team has struggled with in the pre-season.
“I think we’re starting to click a lot more,” Davison said. “We’re playing more Beach basketball and everyone’s not trying to get things for themselves so I think it’s just playing as a team is how we’re going to win.”
Despite shooting 33 percent, Long Beach was able to close a tough match by making its free throws and putting forward an assertive defense that resulted in 33 team blocks, nine steals and a first place standing in the Big West.
Long Beach will travel to Santa Barbara Saturday for a 4 p.m. game.