It was a devastating night for the 49ers as they played their hearts out for 40 minutes, but were unable to seal the deal thanks to the heroics of Fullerton sophomore guard Raina Perez Thursday.
With the game tied up at 47, Long Beach inbounded the ball, clearly in the driver’s seat to take the last shot of the game, only to commit a careless turnover with less than seven seconds on the clock.
The Titans saw their opportunity and rushed down the floor, frantically looking for an open crease to put up a late-game prayer.
Without a clear lane, Perez rose up over an aggressive double team with 2 seconds left to nail an NBA-range three-pointer to lift the Titans to a 50-47 win in dramatic fashion.
“Obviously toward the end there we weren’t [prepared], and I put that on me, their coach. We didn’t execute well at the end, we’ve lost too many close games and a lot of those I put on myself,” head coach Jeff Cammon said.
Long Beach (8-19, 5-9 Big West) started the game off extremely well, limiting Fullerton (14-14, 6-9 Big West) to four points in the first quarter on 2-of-11 shooting from the field. The 49ers attacked the paint relentlessly which gave the Titans trouble.
As the clock began ticking down in the second quarter, the 49ers started to cool off from their hot offensive start, but still were still attacking hard and forcing the defense into bad situations and fouls.
“Our activity was really good. I thought we forced them into traffic where they had to make tough plays in traffic and we were able to deflect balls,” Cammon said.
The Titans were able to match the 49ers’ hard-nosed style of play, winning the quarter 18-14, putting them in reaching distance of making it a tie game by halftime.
Long Beach was able to hold onto its lead throughout the third quarter, but missed three free throws down the stretch and was careless with the ball at times.
With the 49ers letting off the gas, senior center Daeja Smith was able to find her groove in the paint, giving life to the Titans as they began their comeback attempt.
“It’s going to be tough for us to score if we can’t get to the free throw line and we can’t get easier buckets and it’s tough against a zone. I’ve got to make sure that they execute better and I just got to do a better job,” Cammon said.
The fourth quarter is where it all went downhill for Long Beach.
The Titans came out of their huddle on a mission, nailing three pointers left and right, slowly chipping away at the 43-32 lead the 49ers had built.
After doing a stellar job closing out on perimeter shooters in the first half, the 49ers were unable to handle the barrage from the Titans, knocking down three huge shots from downtown to give them a 45-44 lead with less than three minutes left.
Once again, sophomore guard Shanaijah Davison came to the rescue, hitting a clutch three of her own with 2 minutes left to end her cold shooting performance and putting the 49ers back in front 47-45.
“We made some plays to respond a little bit but I just felt they had the momentum probably the last eight minutes of that game,” said Cammon.
After a few forced turnovers by the hustle of the Titans and a lay up by Smith to tie the game at 47 a piece, the ball ended up in the hands of the 49ers with 15 seconds left to go.
Fullerton used its foul to give as freshman guard Justina King dribbled up the floor, limiting the 49ers’ final possession to only 6.9 seconds left in the game.
With the ball inbounded to Davison at the top of the key, the ball was swung in the direction of King, who was unable to corral the pass, giving the Titans a shot to win the game with the final possession.
The Titan’s bench swarmed the floor in excitement for Perez as the 49ers walked back to their bench in disbelief.
“At this point of the year you kind of just gotta do what you do. It’s about just polishing things at this point and making sure our kids are prepared,” said Cammon. “But when you don’t score you have to be stellar defensively and it’s just part of our growth right now.”
The 49ers will enter the Big West tournament March 12th at the Honda Center as the seventh seed.