The Long Beach State women’s basketball team season ended in disappointment, coming up short in both the Big West Tournament and the Women’s National Invitational Tournament.
Despite a poor postseason, the 49ers posted a great regular season. For first time since 1990 through 1992, LBSU had back-to-back 20-win seasons.
The 49ers went 24-9 overall and 12-4 in conference. Their four losses in the Big West came against first-place UC Riverside and second-place Hawai’i.
LBSU’s top scorer, junior guard Raven Benton, averaged 13.5 points per game and had her best season offensively. Benton posted up career highs in both points and assists. She scored 31 points in a victory over UNLV on Dec. 19, 2015 and nine assists in a win against UC Davis on Jan. 28.
Junior forward Jewelyn Sawyer was named Big West Defensive Player of the Year and the 49ers were ranked 11th in the nation in turnovers forced with 21.2 per game.
All these numbers and awards came from a team that had only one senior on the roster.
A total of 24 seniors will be leaving the Big West Conference. 14 of those seniors are coming from three of the top four teams in the Big West: UC Riverside, UH and UC Davis.
Next year the 49ers will have four seniors on the roster, all of whom were starters this season receiving valuable experience.
This makes some room for the 49ers to make noise next year in both the regular season and the postseason in the Big West Tournament.
Hawai’i, UC Riverside and UC Davis will take hits as all three teams are losing top scorers.
The Rainbow Wahine will lose five players, including its only double-digit scorer of the season in Destiny King. King averaged 10.6 ppg on 43 percent shooting from the field. The 5-10 guard was also the team’s top rebounder with 6.6 rebounds per game.
The Highlanders will also lose five seniors, none more accomplished than the two-time Big West Player of the Year Brittany Crain. She averaged 22.5 points per game, which was the most by any player in conference.
UC Riverside will also be losing its third top scorer, Annelise Ito. The 6-foot-3 forward averaged 13.2 ppg, making her the seventh-leading scorer the Big West Conference.
Lastly, the Aggies will be losing four seniors, with one of them being Alyson Doherty. Doherty was the second top scorer on the team averaging 12.4 points a game and second best blocker in conference. She was also tied for the best rebounder on the team, averaging 6.3 boards a game.
The 49ers have proven they can beat every team within the conference, sweeping everyone outside of Hawai’i and UC Riverside. But with both the Highlanders and Rainbow Wahine missing their top players next season, the 49ers will prove they can beat them too.
Now, of course, it won’t be easy since UC Riverside will still be formidable as its second top scorer Rejane Verin will become a senior next season, but the 49ers will have the most complete and experienced team going in.
Benton will continue to be a prolific scorer, Sawyer is a great defender and her overall game will improve, Anna Kim is a great floor general and Madison Montgomery won’t stop playing high-effort, high-energy basketball.
And a player that will have a breakthrough year next season is sophomore Gigi Hascheff. Hascheff has probably the best ball handling skills on the team: she’s fast, can get to the basket at will and can make the three ball.
All the factors add up to a season where the 49ers can make a serious run at the Big West Title and get into the NCAA Tournament.