By Andrew Gordo
The Cal Poly Pomona women’s basketball team rang in the New Year in exciting fashion. On Friday at Kellogg Gym, the Broncos were able to overcome an early 18-point deficit to defeat the Chico State Wildcats 81-76.
Coming off a two-week layoff for the holiday break, the Broncos seemed to have a slow start in the first half.
Not only were the Broncos out rebounded, 20-11, but they also allowed the Wildcats to convert 56 percent of their shots.
Both of these factors led to an 11-minute run that gave the Wildcats an 18-point lead, the Broncos trailing 21-39. However, the Broncos were able to end the first half on a run of their own, and cut down the halftime deficit 33-43.
“We just tried to focus on playing Bronco basketball,” said head coach Danelle Bishop about halftime adjustments. “We didn’t come out with a huge sense of urgency, and we talked about rebounding better and taking care of the ball.”
Bishop’s adjustments were evident in the team’s second half play.
The Broncos seemed to come out more energized and confident, and were able to out rebound the Wildcats 26-21, minimizing their turnovers from 12 to three.
Two seniors led the comeback trail for the Broncos: guard Ariel Marsh, and forward Jada Blackwell. who each finished the game in double figures, Marsh with 21 and Blackwell with 29.
Both players helped to narrow the margin with their energy, three point field goals, free throws and defense.
Through hustle and defense, the Broncos slowly chipped away at and cut the 10-point lead to 66-71 with 2:54 left to play.
Both teams kept trading buckets and the lead continued to shift from seven to five, until Blackwell made an offensive rebound to cut the lead to three with 56 seconds left to play.
Following a missed free throw on a one-and-one attempt and a quick foul by the Wildcats, junior guard Tyler Woods was able to convert two free throws to bring the Broncos to within one point with 46 ticks left on the clock.
The Bronco defense then forced a turnover, which resulted in Marsh being fouled. She was able to make both free throws and gave the Broncos the 77-76 lead with 20 seconds remaining.
For the remainder of the game, the Broncos held onto the lead and completed the improbable comeback victory 81-76.
“We were relentless on both ends tonight, and I’m really proud of our team for pulling out the win,” said Bishop.
A win like this shows the character, resilience and leadership of this Bronco squad with championship aspirations.
“It’s really a compliment that everyone comes out and plays us in a regular season or a conference game like it’s their national championship,” said Marsh on the game’s intensity.
“We’re glad that teams do that because we are just going to get better every time. We’re happy to get the best out of teams because they are going to get the best out of us every night, and come playoffs we’re going to be a very good team.”
The Broncos had a successful winter break, winning three of the four games they played. On Dec. 12, the Broncos defeated the UC San Diego Tritons 82-71 at Kellogg Gym. On Dec. 21, in a rematch against the Tritons in San Diego, the Broncos lost the game 62-50.
The Broncos successfully came back from 18 points down against the Wildcats to win 81-76. Though it wasn’t their best game, the team got the job done.
Their best game of the break, however, came against the Cal State Stanislaus Warriors on Saturday.
The Broncos dominated the game 86-59 in front of the old 1985 National Championship squad.
That year, the Broncos beat the number one ranked team, Central Missouri.
The 1985 Bronco team celebrated the 30-year reunion of their championship, and it seemed to add some energy to the current Bronco team.
Former players include current NBA referee Violet Palmer, Kelley Fraser, Linda Dugan, Sheryl Hayes, Sherri Jennum, Debra Larsen, Vicki Mitchell, Janine Phillips, Sandy Mitchell, Paula Tezak, Debbie Flett and Robin Umphrey.
That 1985 team finished with a 26-7 record, closing out their season winning the last 16 games.
Mitchell led that national championship team, finishing with a double-double, tallying 24 points and 12 rebounds and earning MVP honors for the game.
With the wins over the winter break, the Broncos improve their overall record to 7-3 and their conference record to 5-1.
Their next two games will be played at home against conference opponents.
They’ll host San Francisco State Gators on Friday for the annual Pack the Gym Night, and Saturday against the Sonoma State Seawolves.
Chris Maciosek / The Poly Post
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