March 10, 2012
ANAHEIM, Calif. - The seventh-seeded Long Beach State women's basketball team put up a fight but saw its Cinderella run come to an end Saturday with a 63-54 loss to No. 6 seed UC Santa Barbara in the Big West Tournament championship game at the Honda Center.
"As a coaching staff, we are very proud of what this team has accomplished," third-year 49er head coach Jody Wynn said. "These young ladies have poured their hearts and souls into improving each and every day. To be here with a chance to get to the NCAA Tournament is amazing, no one thought we could ever do this."
LBSU defied the odds by just making it to the finals. With only four returning letterwinners, the 49ers were picked to finish last in the league's preseason poll. They then had to overcome adversity as they lost three of those letterwinners to season-ending injuries.
Long Beach State still finished seventh in the conference standings and then made its magical run through the postseason which put it one win away from the NCAA Tournament. LBSU became the first team in Big West history to knock off a No. 1 and No. 2 seed as it defeated second-seeded Cal State Northridge and top-seeded Cal Poly to advance to the title game.
Freshman Devin Hudson led the 49ers with her second double-double of the tournament, registering 15 points and a career-best 14 rebounds. Redshirt freshman Alex Sanchez scored a game-high 17 points on a 6-for-8 shooting performance. She also totaled six rebounds and three assists. LBSU's leading scorer and only senior, Tipesa Moorer, was limited to 13 minutes due to foul trouble.
Long Beach State (14-18) got on the board first but UC Santa Barbara took a 6-2 lead at the 16-minute mark. The 49ers then responded with a 6-0 run to pull ahead, 8-6, with 13:18 remaining. Just over 30 seconds later, Kelsey Adrian drained a 3-pointer from the wing to put the Gauchos back on top, 9-8.
UCSB (17-15) proceeded to go up by eight before LBSU answered again, this time with a 12-3 spurt, capped by a three from Mary Ochiltree, to take a 20-19 advantage with 2:42 to go. The Gauchos' Kirsten Tilleman then accounted for the only points the rest of the way as she sank a pair of free throws at the 1:46 mark to give UC Santa Barbara the 21-20 edge at the break.
Sanchez paced Long Beach State in the first half with seven points and five rebounds, while Hudson added six points and six boards.
Nearly three minutes went off the clock before either team scored in the second period. UCSB got the first basket at the 17:14 mark and continued on a 14-6 run to pull ahead, 33-26.
Long Beach State then started to chip away as a Sanchez 3-pointer, sandwiched between layups from Sanchez and Jhakia McDonald, closed the gap to 35-33 with 10:38 remaining. The 49ers continued to roll on the offensive end when Lauren Spargo had an and-one layup and Hallie Meneses drained a 3-pointer to put them on top by one (39-38) with 8:36 left in the game.
After trading baskets, UCSB reclaimed a seven-point lead, but back-to-back layups by Hudson and Sanchez cut the deficit to 55-52 with 2:07 to play. The Gauchos answered with a jumper and after a technical foul was called on the 49er bench, Angelei Aguirre sank both free throws to give UCSB the 59-52 advantage with 46 seconds on the clock. The Gauchos were then able to hold on for the 63-54 victory.
Kirsten Tilleman paced UC Santa Barbara with 16 points and 11 rebounds, while Melissa Zornig chipped in 12 points.
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