By Charlize Althea Garcia, March 7, 2023
Cal Poly Pomona’s women’s basketball team won the California Collegiate Athletic Association quarterfinal against Chico State by a score of 67-59 March 2, advancing to the semifinal.
With the lead rotating between the two teams, the playoff crowd gritted their teeth all night as the score fluctuated between one or two points.
The Broncos started the game off with a rough first quarter. The opposing team sprinted out of the gate with five 3-pointers while CPP fought for the early lead.
Coach Danelle Bishop commended the opposing team for their solid start.
“I thought we just came out a little lethargic,” said Bishop. “We didn’t come out with a sense of urgency that against really good team like that, that you have to come out with. I feel like we adjusted. We changed our urgency.”
Guard Alicia Jones led the Broncos with 23 points on 9-15 shooting after playing all 40 minutes. Jones scored the CPP’s first 11 points of the game, trailblazing through the court with a fire that never extinguished throughout the night.
Jones credited her coach and mindset before the game for the successful night.
“I think coming out I was really trying to play to my strengths,” said Jones. “Mostly I was trying to focus on defense. Our coach mentioned to us in the pre-game to let the game come to us, and that’s what I tried to do and really focus on my mid-range because I know that’s my strength and look for my teammates and play hard defense.”
With a one-point lead from the opposition, guard Kalaya Buggs took initiative and pierced through with a left-handed layup in the first 50 seconds of the second quarter that set the tone for the rest of the night.
On the other side of the court, Buggs played good defense through a block on an attempted 3 just minutes later.
CPP soon obtained a 27-24 lead through a midrange jumper from Ciara James with 4:22 left in the half. James took her shot as the crowd counted down the seconds, roaring their support for the Broncos after the made basket.
Rebounds were critical in maintaining the lead for Broncos. CPP tallied 25 rebounds toward the end of the first half, as the crowd gained confidence in their inside presence.
With under 30 seconds left in the half and the shot clock malfunctioning about four times, deafening silence from both teams and the crowd highlighted the tension.
The game went into half-time with a Bronco lead of 31-29 after a Chico State bucket to end the quarter. In the first half of the game, Chico State seemed to have a good rhythm to maintain their lead, consistently making shots behind the arc.
Although, further into the game and to the end, the Broncos stuck their ground and barred any kind of cut to their lead from Chico.
The Bronco team, according to Jones, played to their own strengths.
James passed the ball to guard Breanne Ha to open the second half, who stepped back to the 3-point line. Ha sunk the first 3-point bucket in the game, giving CPP a seven-point lead.
Donja Payne later set up the final quarter with a free throw and maintained the Broncos’ lead at 51-48.
Payne dominated inside the paint with a good defense throughout the night that included key blocks and rebounds on both ends.
“Honestly, it’s just a game where we knew we had to stick together,” said Payne. “So, the main thing that was going through my head was to screen here and get whoever’s open and be present any type of way I can be.”
With the ball in anyone’s court in the final quarter, the Broncos clung to their three-point advantage.
Although, when Buggs made a clear driving layup with no one in her way at the 8:46 mark of the fourth, it foreshadowed the rest of the night.
Bishop expanded on the gameplan to close out the final quarter.
“In the fourth quarter, they were three for 10, so that was just one of the things that I thought that we did a much better job of tidying up,” said Bishop. “Getting a hand up on them and kind of forcing them into tougher shots. That’s just something they rely on. That’s just part of their game, and we knew that. So, we just had to close that gap a little bit.”
Buggs continued the streak with an assist, passing the ball to Ha who drained another 3-pointer just beyond the arc with 7:36 on the clock. The play sent the crowd cheering and the whole bench on their feet, exclaiming with support for their team.
Down the stretch, Jones, Buggs and Payne continued making great plays that held Chico State at bay for the rest of the game.
With 44 seconds on the clock, Jones turned the lead into double digits, sealing their win.
Foul after foul from Chico State prolonged the tension on the court and the audience, but it was too little too late. The Broncos inevitably won with an eight-point lead after sinking their free throws and dominating the final frame.
The Bronco team lost against Dominguez Hills in the CCAA semifinals the next night. Although, this victory in itself has proved their force of nature as a team on the court and their triumphant season.
Feature image courtesy of CPP Athletics
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