The Broncos reached 20 wins in a single season for the first time since 2019. | Courtesy of CPP Athletics

CPP women’s basketball defeats Sonoma State, comes up short against Chico State in CCAA Tournament

By Samantha Campion, March 19, 2024

After a 74-45 victory over Sonoma State in the quarterfinals, Cal Poly Pomona women’s basketball came up just six points short of a comeback against Chico State in the CCAA Tournament semifinals March 8.

Finishing the regular season with a 15-7 conference record, No. 3 seed Cal Poly Pomona faced the No. 4 seed Sonoma State Seawolves in the quarterfinals Thursday afternoon.

In their first regular season matchup Jan. 11, the Seawolves walked away victorious with a 61-58 win over the Broncos at home. Their second meeting played in the Bronco’s favor, as they outscored Sonoma State 18-10 in overtime to secure a 76-68 win.

Prepared for a first-round battle in Coussoulis Arena, the Broncos came out ready to compete in back-and-forth action during the first quarter to gain a 14-11 lead.

Guard Breanne Ha opened the second quarter with back-to-back three-pointers in the first two minutes, followed by two free throws by guard Reina Sausedo to take an 11-point advantage over the Seawolves.

Ha ended the night with 15 points while Sausedo added 11 points with eight rebounds to tie CCAA Freshman of the Year Sydney Nelson for the game-high. Nelson contributed to all areas of the game with 10 points, two assists and four steals.

The Broncos lost a key part of their offense midseason when forward Jeanette Fine suffered an injury that prevented her from playing in seven consecutive conference games before returning for the CCAA Tournament with limited minutes.

“We did have Jeanette missing, and she’s a big presence for us, not only just scoring but rebounding and defense,” said head coach Danelle Bishop. “She communicates well, and she’s a great passer. She sees the floor well. When we played without her on the road, that was tough.”

Fine didn’t miss a beat in her return, coming off the bench to score a layup in the paint that sparked an 18-0 scoring run with four minutes and 59 seconds remaining in the second quarter. In the limited 17 minutes Fine played, she led the team in scoring with 16 points, shooting 86% from the field (6-for-7), rounding out the players in double figures.

CPP’s defense proved to be a challenge for Sonoma State, 15 steals on the night led to 23 points off turnovers for the Broncos to the Seawolves five.

“Our identity is put into defense; it’s constantly put into their heads,” Bishop said. “Once we started to get a flow defensively, we were able to transition and do what we do best.”

The run extended four minutes into the third quarter before the Seawolves ended their scoring drought. By that time, the Broncos had established a 23-point lead. They never dropped below a 22-point advantage the rest of the game.

The Broncos scored 36 bench points to the Seawolves nine to secure a 74-45 win to advance to the CCAA Tournament semifinals to face No. 2 Chico State.

Fine led the Broncos with 16 points in their 29-point victory over Sonoma State. | Courtesy of CPP Athletics

In their last matchup, Chico State defeated the Broncos 71-63 to finish second in the CCAA standings.

The Wildcats came out hot in the first quarter, shooting 61% from the field and 63% from beyond the arc for a 12-0 scoring run.

“It was really tough for us in that first quarter,” Bishop said. “We weren’t doing a lot of things that we pride ourselves on and you have to give Chico credit. They’re very well-coached, and they play extremely hard. They came in and they made shots.”

The Broncos finally got on the board behind a three-pointer by Ha with six minutes and 45 seconds remaining, followed by three back-to-back layups by Nelson to bring them within six points.

Fine and Nelson stepped up for the Broncos when point guard Kalaya Buggs went down with an ankle injury early in the first quarter.

Fine came off the bench to record a career-high 24 points to lead all players in scoring along with three assists and two steals in only 27 minutes. Nelson played all 40 minutes to nearly complete a double-double on the night with 22 points and nine rebounds.

“In the playoffs, it’s anyone’s game, and we’re all back to 0-0,” Nelson said. “So, it just shows how everybody will put it all on the line, and it reminded me of how I need to put everything on the line. Go for loose balls and put my body on the line you know. Go for rebounds and score as many points in the paints as I can because I know my strengths.”

CPP found success early on down low, outscoring the Wildcats 42-18 in points in the paint, but the Broncos were unable to gain any momentum before heading into the second quarter trailing 28-13.

Coming into the second half, the Wildcats showed no signs of slowing down. By the third quarter, Chico State remained in control of the game to reach their largest lead of the game by 27 points.

The momentum started to shift at the end of the fourth quarter when the Broncos slowly chipped away at the Wildcats’ lead as two free throws by Sausedo and a layup in the paint by Fine cut the deficit to single digits.

With one minute and two seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, Sausedo hit a three-pointer to bring the Broncos within six points, the smallest margin since the Wildcats’ first-quarter scoring run.

In the end, CPP outscored Chico State 33-15 in the fourth quarter, but their efforts came up short as the Wildcats went 4-for-4 from the free throw line with 21 seconds remaining to hold off the Broncos for an 80-74 win.

Even though the Broncos fell short of a CCAA Championship trophy, one player took home an award recognizing her abilities beyond the basketball court.

Before the quarterfinal game, Sausedo was named the Elite 13 Award recipient, honoring a student-athlete who reached the conference championships in their respective sport with the highest GPA among their peers.

“It was really unexpected honestly, but I mean for me I’ve always put academics first and coach knows that about me,” Sausedo said. “I’m huge about that and balancing that with sports. I feel like playing basketball makes me more of an academic force; it motivates me to keep going, and I work really hard.”

Despite the loss, the Broncos received an at-large bid to the NCAA Regional Tournament where they faced Western Washington March 15.

“When you have good leaders on the court stuff like that and when you are receptive to what they are telling you, buy-in,” Fine said. “That’s one of our things to buy in and stay a family, stay together.”

Feature image courtesy of CPP Athletics

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