As the adage goes, “when it rains, it pours —” and once UC Riverside got rolling, the team fed off of Long Beach’s mistakes and put the 49ers through a storm. Long beach was put away 79-66, in the first round of the Big West Tournament.
The Long Beach State’s women’s basketball team was never able to recover from a multitude of miscues including turnovers that let Riverside get offensive rebounds and second chance opportunities. The 49ers overall inexperience on the court gave them no chance of coming back late into the match.
“Tonight, I thought we looked young.” head coach Jeff Cammon said. “I thought we were a little exposed with our inexperience.”
Although Long Beach (8-22, 6-10 Big West) had a very noticeable size advantage down in the post, Riverside’s (9-21, 6-10 Big West) defense made things tough, making multiple rotations to close out on shooters. As a result, the 49ers went 0-for-5 from 3-point land in the first half.
Furthermore, UCR crashed the glass hard, racking up multiple second chance opportunities. This allowed the Highlanders to amass an 11-point lead, 35-24 with 4:16 left in the second quarter. Long Beach would go on an 8-2 run to end the quarter, led by senior guard Cecily Wilson scoring eight points, including a stepback jumper with less than 30 seconds left to cut the lead to five, 37-32, going into halftime.
At the end of the first half of play, senior guard Michelle Curry led the way for the Highlanders with 10 points, five rebounds and four assists while freshman center Emma Merriweather paced the 49ers with 10 points and five rebounds.
Long beach started the second half on a sour note — by missing multiple shots and turning the ball over numerous times.
The fourth quarter saw the Highlanders lead grow to as much as 23 as Riverside continued to feed off of Long Beach’s mistakes. Though the game was slowly slipping away from the 49ers, the team showed fight and kept pushing until the end.
“It’s always tough losing, especially your last game of your senior year.” Wilson said. “They were just more experienced.”
Lauren Holt led all scorers with 22 points while Wilson’s also had 22 points for Long Beach.
“For as young as they are, Long Beach State played with a lot of heart” said Riverside head coach John Margaritis. “Kudos to Long Beach.”
With the loss, the 49ers’ season is over and although it started poorly for the team, the recent five-game winning streak makes Cammon excited for the team’s future.
“It was incredible the way they banded together and continued to just fight and get over that hump,” Cammon said. “For the future, I think it shows the young kids that we have a strong foundation and that they have the ability to do something special here.”