Everything was looking up for the 49ers as they fought for a comeback, with momentum on their side and the crowd chanting in support as the clock slowly ticked down.
That is until sophomore lead guard Shanaijah Davison hit the ground at half court, clutching her ankle while clearly in a great deal of pain, leading to a 48-46 loss.
The gym was silent until a round of applause broke out as Davison was carried off the court by the training staff, but with a little under two minutes left in the game, Long Beach (7-16, 4-6 Big West) had some ground to make up, trailing UC Irvine (16-5, 6-3 Big West) 46-43.
“It’s always tough to see your teammate, your sister go down. These young ladies are very close, they have really strong relationships and great rapport,” said head coach Jeff Cammon. “Shanaijah is a strong kid, she’ll bounce back … They hurt for her, they hurt for this tough loss.”
The game was close for the better part of the first three quarters, as neither team could find a rhythm shooting the ball, but the Anteaters started to pull away in the fourth with gritty defense and determination.
Then came the heroics of sophomore forward Naomi Hunt as she decided to start heating up, knocking down back-to-back three pointers to give the 49ers some much needed energy, putting Long Beach down by one point halfway through the fourth.
“I just knew we were down and had to get back, and I was pretty confident with my shot the past couple of games, so I just decided to let it fly,” Hunt said.
The game then turned into a slugfest, with both squads trading clutch buckets.
UC Irvine came back looking for a three pointer to build its lead up even more, only to miss the shot, but came up with the offensive rebound.
All hope looked lost as the Anteaters had the last possession until a huge block by Hunt gave 49ers a chance to take the lead with 17 seconds left in regulation and only a one point deficit.
The crowd erupted as the 49ers ran down the floor, but the cheers were soon gone as Davison injured her ankle, clearly crying in pain on the floor.
With Davison no longer able to play, Kianna Hamilton-Fisher was inserted into the lineup as the 49ers clung to their last hope of victory. She came up big after being fouled on a loose ball to tie the game at 46 after knocking down one-of-two free throws with 14.8 seconds left.
The 49ers showed their defensive tenacity as they bottled up the Anteaters, forcing a traveling violation to get the ball back with 4.2 seconds remaining.
The gym was alive as the 49ers trotted to their spots on the floor to inbound the ball with only 2.7 seconds remaining, with a game-winner set in their sights.
The Anteaters once again showed their ability to dig in on the defensive end, forcing their 20th turnover of the game as the inbounds pass was intercepted.
“I thought we had some good looks, but we can’t have 20 turnovers against this team, especially down the stretch … and I think that was a big part of us not coming up with the victory today,” said Cammon.
Clearly frustrated with the way the game was unfolding, Davison threw her shoe on the ground as she sat on the bench watching her team struggle to close out the game.
UC Irvine was able to inbound the ball with a screen set on the elbow to free up sophomore forward Jordan Sanders, who rose up and knocked down the shot, putting the nail in the coffin for the 49ers with .01 seconds remaining in the game.
“I’m just proud of their effort, proud of the resiliency and the fact that they stuck in there,” Cammon said. “It’s all about getting better, and you hate to lose, but it’s part of the journey.”
Long Beach State will travel for a 7:30 pm Saturday game against Hawai’i.