Emotion filled the hallowed halls of the Bren Events Center on March 6. For the players, the night marked the end of a disappointing season; for the coaches, the night marked the beginning of a rigorous off-season of preparations and reflection. And for seniors Kristen Green and Christina Callaway, the game marked their last contest in a UCI jersey.
Facing a must-win game against league rival Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, the lady Anteaters stepped onto the court looking to qualify for the Big West Conference tournament.
Heading into the contest tied for eighth in the conference standings, the Anteaters needed the combination of a home win and a UC Riverside loss to qualify for the postseason tournament.
Attempting to take advantage of UCR’s defeat at the hands of the University of Pacific, the Anteaters looked to even their season series against the fourth-seeded Cal Poly Mustangs.
In a classic match up of Irvine’s perimeter attack against Cal Poly’s imposing frontcourt, the Anteater shooters failed to keep pace with the Mustang’s interior offense, falling to the Mustangs 78-71.
With the loss, UCI dropped to 6-20 overall and 5-13 in Big West conference play.
Led by senior guard Kristen Green’s career-high 28 points, the Anteaters valiantly countered every Mustang attack but in the end, Cal Poly’s four consecutive offensive rebounds sealed Irvine’s fate.
‘We just didn’t get it done in crunch time,’ said Head Coach Mark Adams. ‘Part of it is that we weren’t a good rebounding team, and that’s going to cost you the game.’
The Mustangs led by as much as nine points throughout the second half but an 8-2 Irvine run highlighted by back-to-back baskets by Green and Callaway closed the gap to 74-71 with under a minute left.
Unable to force a Cal Poly turnover, the Anteaters intentionally fouled Mustang point guard Sparkle Anderson with 23.5 seconds left in regulation. Anderson missed her free throw, but regained possession of the ball after an offensive rebound. Anderson was fouled again and again missed her second free throw. However, Mustang guard Jessica Eggleston grabbed the offensive rebound, leading to another Irvine foul. Eggleston proceeded to make her first free throw but missed her second, leading to another Mustang offensive rebound.
Mustang forward Courtney Uphoff proceeded to convert both of her free throws, ending the game at 78-71.
Anderson led all Mustang players with 14 points, 10 of which came in the second half.
Although a definite weakness in UCI’s game, the troublesome rebounding was merely a part of UCI’s problems. The Anteaters were outscored in the paint 38-26 and outscored by the Mustang bench 35-7. The Anteaters also committed 23 turnovers, leading to 25 Mustang points.
However, in a night clouded by the frustration of a disappointing season, the Irvine senior duo of Green and Callaway still shined the brightest. Playing the full 40 minutes, Green and Callaway led all scorers with 28 and 18 points each, with Callaway also chipping in 11 rebounds.
Green and Callaway were honored prior to the start of the game for their accomplishments during their four-year tenure at UCI. The two seniors were accompanied by their family who were individually introduced at the end of the player introductions.
‘[The seniors] did a fantastic job. They tried to carry us the entire year and they finished with really remarkable stats tonight,’ Adams said.
The game marked the end of a disappointing season for the
UCI Women’s Basketball team. Hindered by injuries to key players including freshman guard
Megan Aaker and forward Stephanie Duda, the undermanned Irvine squad battled valiantly throughout the season, garnering valuable experience for future seasons.
‘We gave it our all, we competed day in and day out,’ said freshman guard Angie Ned. ‘We gave it our best and that’s all that matters.’
Apart from the grand exit of Irvine’s two star seniors, the game also offered a glimpse of the future of the UCI Women’s Basketball team. Ned and freshman guard Shayna Stanley contributed major minutes, while junior forward Ashley Biggins and junior guard Courtney Ferguson displayed their abilities to be leaders on next year’s team.
‘Next season will be great. We got some really good freshmen coming in and hopefully we’ll work hard to improve upon the results of this season,’ Ferguson said.