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Broncos win home court advantage in CCAA Tournament

The women’s basketball team hosted Cal State East Bay on Thursday and Cal State Monterey Bay on Saturday.

This was the first and only matchup against the East Bay Pioneers, whose California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) conference record was 12-8 heading into the game. The Broncos won their previous matchup against Monterey Bay in November, resulting in a 59-54 win.

The game against East Bay was intense all the way through; both teams had similar CCAA conference records, as the Broncos had only one more win and one less loss than East Bay. The Broncos hit the ground running and ended the first quarter with a 10-point lead.

Things would slow down for the Broncos, as their shots were not falling. The Pioneers produced big shots and performed well in the second and third quarters. The fourth quarter would be the deciding factor between the two teams. Head coach Danelle Bishop knew this would be a huge win, especially pushing for home court advantage heading into the CCAA championship tournament on Tuesday.

“We tried not to put pressure on the players, but at least let them know where we’re at and how we really needed this game to get a home game for that first round of playoffs,” Bishop said. “I really love how our players battled. We got some really good looks and couldn’t get the ball to drop in the second and third quarters.

“We refocused and regrouped. Our girls were locked in and focused in and knew exactly what to do. We got some key stops, and it frustrated East Bay because they weren’t able to score,” Bishop said.

The women’s basketball team ended with a conference record of 19-9. (Pictured is No. 21 Jayda Villareal.) (Alexandra Wilder | The Poly Post)

Senior point guard Jackie Ricketson had an unusually low assist game against East Bay, but was still able to dish out four assists, knock down 17 points and hustle for four steals and six rebounds. 

She feels that she contributes best when she’s getting her team involved, but is happy to have scored when they needed her most. Ricketson was the first spark of the fourth-quarter turnaround, as she shifted the momentum after a well-needed layup plus a foul to get them closer in bonus.

“I didn’t have a lot of assists today, which is something I strive for and my free throws weren’t great, but I’m still happy about everyone’s performance,” Ricketson said. “Our defense really stepped up and that was the biggest thing that helped us win this game.

“Momentum is obviously a really big deal especially when you’re down. I was luckily able to draw a foul and make it. It was a big momentum shift. After that point, Kasey started scoring a lot more and we picked up our defense even more,” Ricketson said.

The Broncos had trouble communicating and handling the ball, which resulted in a season high of 21 turnovers. The team turned the tide with its defense, picking off 14 steals followed by a late scoring tear by senior forward Kasey Smit. She scored 11 of her 17 points in the fourth quarter and grabbed a total of 14 rebounds to capture her fourth consecutive double-double. She was the biggest spark in this game, and it started with a layup plus a foul, which broke the tie 52-51, with three minutes remaining.

“In the beginning I don’t think I was producing as much, and we later couldn’t find our momentum,” Smit said. “Coach B(ishop) was telling me ‘Beast mode, beast mode, beast mode.’ She was telling me ‘Get in there even if I have to go through them, we need you.’ That motivated me.”

“I know how important this win is for us, so I really wanted to step up for my team,” Smit said. “I thought it was going to be a charge .… I heard cheers from the crowd (after making layup plus foul) and it felt like I was in an NBA game, I felt like LeBron or something. It was so cool to have that experience.”

The Broncos regained control and finished off East Bay with a win of 60-53.

It was senior night for the Broncos in their game against Monterey Bay on Saturday. The Broncos had seniors Ricketson, Smit and Quinesha Vanhook with double figures in scoring, leading the team to victory.

Vanhook achieved a double-double with 10 rebounds and 10 points. The Broncos battled hard and had an explosive second quarter, holding Monterey Bay to only four points while scoring a quarter-high 20 points. The Broncos capitalized off turnovers, scoring 19 points off of them to win the game 62-53. 

Saturday’s game marked Coach Bishop’s 200th career win with the Bronco.

The Broncos finished their season with a CCAA conference record of 15-7, and have secured a top seed position in the CCAA championship tournament. They will have home advantage for their first game against Stanislaus State at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday. The Broncos beat Stanislaus State 69-65 in early February and will look to get another win.

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