After a buzzer-beater propelled Cal State Fullerton women’s basketball past Long Beach State just five days ago, it was no surprise that their opening round matchup of the Big West Tournament was close. Long Beach answered that heartbreaking buzzer beater loss Tuesday night by defeating CSUF 60-54.
This year’s Big West Tournament appearance marked the Titans’ first since the 2014-15 season, and also marked the highest seeding the team had received since the 2013-14 season when the squad entered as the sixth seed and fell to Long Beach.
Despite not having an experienced Big West Tournament player to lead the Titans, many players pitched in. Performances by Carolyn Gill, Daeja Smith and Raina Perez kept the Titans within striking distance the entire game. Gill earned a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds, while Smith added 12 points to go along with six rebounds. Perez had a team-high 15 points and added eight assists.
Perez finished her first season with the Titans after transferring from Northern Arizona, but still has two years of eligibility at CSUF. Perez stated that this game was a start for what lies ahead.
“This game was definitely tough, but I think it’s just a stepping stone to what as a team we can be, and me personally, I’m definitely going to get back in the gym,” Perez said.
Forward Amiee Book earned her seventh start of the season after being named to the Big West All-Freshman team and also receiving the Big West Sixth Woman of the Year award. Book started the game in a fantastic fashion, scoring five of the first seven points for the Titans.
A low-scoring first quarter ended with a two-point differential favoring the Titans.
Both teams’ offense heated up during the second quarter. Long Beach was able to cut Fullerton’s lead to 25-24 on a pull-up jumper by Kianna Hamilton-Fisher before the half.
Solid performances continued from each team at the start of the third quarter. Each team shot an exceptional 50 percent from the field, including an impressive 4-for-5 performance by CSUF from the three-point line, two of them from senior guard, Hannah Thompson.
The deciding factor of the game came in the fourth quarter after an 8-0 run that extended Long Beach’s lead to 11 with 5:43 left to go. CSUF spent the rest of the game chipping away at the lead, but it ultimately proved to be too much for the Titans as they fell 60-54.
Coach Jeff Harada credited Long Beach for the win, and said they hit big shots over the course of the game.
“They hit shots. Different players hit shots that don’t normally hit shots for them,” Harada said.
Harada added that this game does not define CSUF’s season, and mentioned that this season was the best their group of seniors competed in during their four years at Fullerton.
“Success for me is having five seniors who had the best season of their careers at Cal State Fullerton making the conference tournament for the first time in their careers,” Harada said.