Broncos, Ohlssen overcome odds in postseason upset

By Michael Zavala

Mix a star in foul trouble, a miracle return and solid defense,
and what do you get?

The perfect recipe for a postseason upset.

After junior Andrea Ohlssen went down with a concussion last
Thursday during Cal Poly’s road game against Sonoma State, the
women’s basketball team’s chances in the California Collegiate
Athletic Association tournament appeared grim, with a big slice of
its defense and 3-point shooting suddenly gone.

But it wasn’t grim enough for the seventh-seeded Broncos
(13-15), who pulled off a shocking victory against No. 2 seed Cal
State San Bernardino at Coussoulis Arena, 57-52.

“It’s a big win for us,” said head coach Scott Davis. “We came
out with the energy and the desire to win in the second half.”

The victory keeps the Broncos’ slim chances of a spot in
Regionals alive. Cal Poly is not ranked in the latest West Region
poll and needs the automatic Regional berth the winner of the CCAA
tournament receives to keep its postseason run going.

Cal Poly began that journey tonight against the Coyotes.

The Broncos received a good omen earlier in the day when
Ohlssen, who had previously been scratched out of the postseason by
Davis, was cleared to play the quarterfinal game. Ohlssen had been
feeling dizzy and nauseous due to the concussion as recently as
Sunday, but recovered enough to start against San Bernardino.

“We have a trainer who is a miracle worker,” said Davis. “It was
a nice surprise.”

The defensive boost immediately benefited Cal Poly; Coyote star
center Vanessa Wilt, who averages nearly 20 points per game, was
harassed the entire game and struggled to score on anything other
than putbacks and free throws.

“[Wilt] had to work hard to get everything she got,” said
Davis.

Wilt finished the game with 10 points and got into foul trouble
early. Her fourth foul came with 15:17 remaining and opened the
door for the Broncos to come back after being down by as much as
seven in the early goings of the second half.

Cal Poly’s defense augmented its stellar play against Wilt by
also shutting down the Coyotes’ outside shooters, who made the
Broncos pay dearly for trying the same strategy during San
Bernardino’s 78-64 win at Kellogg Gym Jan. 16.

Overall, the Coyotes shot 26.2 percent from the field and did
not hit any 3-pointers in the second half.

“We didn’t score like I thought we’d be able to, but we were
defending very well,” said Davis. “We played man defense like we
have all year; we just played with more intensity tonight.”

Wilt’s long spell on the Coyote bench opened up the Bronco
offense. A jumper from senior Cassey Brick gave Cal Poly a
five-point lead, 46-41, with 8:01 left, and it kept the pressure on
even after Wilt came back into the game.

However, Wilt fouled out with 3:33 remaining, and the Broncos
closed the game from there. Senior Vanessa Dominguez had six of her
12 second-half points in the closing minutes, while senior Ashley
Moody hit a 3-point dagger to extend the Broncos’ lead to four,
55-51, with 1:11 remaining.

“We hit the shots we needed to,” said Davis. “Cassey played
phenomenal, hitting a couple of big shots for us, and then Moody
hit that 3-pointer.

“You need to hit big shots to win games, and we hit them.”

Dominguez led Cal Poly with 17 points, while freshman Reyana
Colson scored 13 and Ohlssen had 10.

But despite Cal Poly’s solid play tonight, its path to Regionals
will only get tougher. Cal Poly will be facing No. 1 seed Chico
State in the semifinals of the CCAA tournament Friday at Coussoulis
Arena.

The Wildcats swept the season series with Cal Poly, with the
most recent Chico State victory being a 76-65 win at Kellogg Gym.
In that game, the Broncos had an 11-point lead with 12:37
remaining, but a late lapse allowed Chico State to get back into
the game and take the victory.

“We’re going to need to answer their offense this time around,”
said Davis.

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