In their final regular season game at Long Beach State, Hallie Meneses, Lauren Spargo and Alex Sanchez put their stamp on Senior Night with a 76-66 win over UC Riverside Saturday inside the Walter Pyramid.
“When it’s your senior night, you really walk down memory lane,” Meneses said. “[You think about] when you got recruited, conditioning days and the moment you go to war with your teammates.”
Spargo became the 23rd member of the 49ers’ (22-8, 9-7) 1,000-point scoring club in a 77-61 loss at CSUN on March 5. She joined Sanchez, who reached the milestone in a 72-64 loss at Hawaii on Jan. 29.
The Matadors (21-9, 11-5) kept Spargo in check for most of the game, limiting her to just four of 13 shooting, including one of six from three-point range.
CSUN head coach Jason Flowers told the Northridge student publication, the Sundial, that slowing down Spargo was a top priority.
“Our game plan is always the same in taking away what individual players do best,” Flowers said. “In order to do that it takes all five people on the defensive end.”
Meneses reached double figures in scoring for the sixth straight game in the win over Riverside. She scored a team-high 20 points while dishing out six assists and securing seven rebounds.
She said she elevated her focus and determination when the team went through a rough stretch in February.
“I wanted it bad, and I still do,” Meneses said. “There’s no doubt that we’re [in] this. There’s still a little bit of hope [to reach the NCAA Tournament] and I’m going to try to take advantage of it.”
Head Coach Jody Wynn said Meneses’ effort the last six games showed the team captain’s willpower. The 49ers will need some of the young players to keep up their level of play when they take on either UC Davis or Riverside Wednesday night in the first round of the Big West Tournament.
“She’s on a mission,” Wynn said. “She’s one of those kids that practices when no one is in the gym. It’s nice to see her playing with the confidence she’s playing with. When she wants the ball, she wants the ball down the stretch.”
The 49ers’ defense and scoring off the bench helped them jump out to an early lead. Wynn said LBSU’s alertness throughout the game led to their all-around impressive performance.
“I think we had unbelievable focus for a full 40 minutes,” Wynn said. “We gave up the quick shot for a better shot, and it’s the first time all year that we’ve done that.”
LBSU got a much-needed boost from freshman guard Cece Wilson and sophomore forward Madison Montgomery. Wilson guarded Brittany Crain, the Big West leading scorer at 22.9 points per game, limiting her to just eight points.
“CeCe did a great job of trying to limit the touches of Brittany Crain,” Wynn said. “[Crain] such a great player and prolific scorer. It was a tall task and [Wilson] stepped up to the challenge.”
Montgomery provided the 49ers a post-presence they had been missing since junior center Devin Hudson went down with an injury. Montgomery scored 15 points on six of seven shooting and grabbed 11 rebounds.
“She came to play tonight,” Wynn said. “She did a fantastic job for us in the paint. Even when she didn’t get the ball, she sealed hard and occupied her defenders.”
Wynn said Montgomery’s performance affected the Highlanders’ defensive approach.
“[Montgomery] either was open because she was one-on-one holding her seal or the defense rotated to her and we were able to move the ball and get an extra swing,” Wynn said.
Wynn said the victory was gratifying for the seniors and it will help boost the team’s chemistry going into postseason play.
“Most importantly, it gives us confidence that we can perform for 40 minutes,” Wynn said. “When you’re missing three key players, it’s easy to doubt ourselves.”