The Long Beach State women’s basketball team will enter the final stretch of its regular season when it hosts Big West leader Hawaii Thursday night inside the Walter Pyramid.
The 49ers (20-6, 7-5) are 0-2 after losing leading scorer Raven Benton and leading rebounder Devin Hudson to season-ending injuries. LBSU is confident going into their next matchup against the first place Rainbow Wahine (19-7, 11-2).
“As long as we have five [available players], we can play and the kids know it,” head coach Jody Wynn said. “They’re up for the challenge and our three seniors still want to go out the way they want to go out.”
With only six active players its previous game, LBSU fell 83-66 at second-placed UC Davis on Feb. 19.
Although Benton and Hudson’s seasons are over, the 49ers might get junior guard Chantel Dooley and sophomore guard Jewelyn Sawyer back in time for Thursday night’s showdown against the Rainbow Wahine.
Dooley, who missed the 49ers’ last three games, had ice wrapped around her left knee during Monday’s practice. She is averaging 5.1 points and 4.1 rebounds per game, and is listed as day-to-day, according to Wynn.
Despite Hawaii’s dominance over conference opponents, the 49ers are more concerned about what they do as opposed to their counterparts’ impressive resume.
“It doesn’t matter if it was the first place team in the league or the last place team,” Wynn said. “We still have to approach the game the same way: scrap, win the 50-50 balls, and control what we can control.”
Senior forward Lauren Spargo, the 49ers’ second leading scorer with Benton out for the year, played 37 minutes in the loss against UC Davis on Feb. 19. Fatigue may soon become a factor, but Spargo said the team can’t let up its style of play.
“We need to use our quickness to our advantage and beat them to their stops,” senior forward Lauren Spargo said. “Just being more hungry for the ball every time it comes off the rim.”
LBSU will have its hands full against a deep Hawaii roster, led by senior guard Shawna-Lei Kuehu who averages 12.3 ppg.
Team captain Hallie Meneses said the 49ers need some of the younger players to step up their play to make up for Benton and Hudson’s lost the lost production.
“We need to have our freshmen not be scared to knock down shots,” Meneses said. “Even though we don’t have Raven and Devin, we still have other girls who have yet to show their full potential. It’s time for them to stop living in the potential.”
The last time LBSU and Hawaii faced off on Jan. 29, the Rainbow Wahine handed the 49ers a 72-64 defeat. That loss marked the beginning of a rough, six-game stretch against Big West opponents for LBSU, which went 3-3.
“Conference is a whole different beast,” Meneses said. “At this point, we just have to fight. We knew it was going to be a dogfight since before conference even started.”
LBSU will play its second-to-last home game of the season inside the Walter Pyramid at 7 p.m. on Thursday night. The game will be nationally broadcast on ESPN3.