RICHARDSON, Texas – After a convincing run through the SCIAC Tournament, the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps women's basketball program (19-8, 13-3) have booked their ticket to their fourth consecutive NCAA Tournament. With the regular season finally out of the way, the Athenas are ready to kick off their national title run against host University of Texas-Dallas (25-3) on Friday, March 3 at 5 p.m. PST.
The regular season proved to be a learning experience for the Athenas as the ladies went through their fair share of highs and lows. Despite having six talented returning seniors in their squad, the Athenas knew that continuity alone would not guarantee success. CMS saw what it was capable of at the start of the season, defeating east coast powerhouse Bowdoin 70-62 in overtime early in the season. However, shocking conference losses to Occidental College and Cal Lutheran served as a wakeup call for the Athenas. They closed out the season going 7-1 and recaptured the dominance they had the last two seasons in the SCIAC tournament, defeating Redlands 62-54 and Chapman 65-54.
Senior Kris Brackmann (CMC) has provided CMS plenty of flexibility on the offensive and defensive end. Standing at 5-10, the senior forward has the quickness to play the perimeter and the size to score in the post, averaging 11.4 points per game this season. She and her classmate Quinn Glosniak (CMC) have proven to be capable of defending in and out of the paint as well. In the paint, senior Claire Donnelly (CMC) has stepped up as one of the best shot-blockers in the SCIAC, averaging 1.3 blocks per game. Senior Jai Dungca (CMC) has been an x-factor as of late, not only being a reliable facilitator, but also a go-to option at certain moments on offense. Whenever the team desperately needs a basket, the point guard has flashed her quickness to maneuver past defenders at will for the easy layups.
The Athenas have proven to be one of the best defensive teams in the country, holding opponents to 52.1 points per game this season, enough to be 29th in the nation. In addition to having versatile players who can guard anywhere on the floor and a reliable shot-blocking presence, the Athenas collectively outwork their opponents on the glass. The team boasts a 9.1 rebounding margin in conference play this season, and expects their physical style of play to carry over on the national stage.
UT Dallas prides itself for its defense, having held their opponents to 50 points or less nine times this season. After taking first place in the American Southwest Conference, the Comets are prepared to bring their A-Game against the Athenas. The offense will rely on starting guard Alyssa Crockett to stretch the floor with her perimeter shooting, averaging 40.4 percent from behind the arc this season. Crockett leads the team with 15.4 points per game and is helped by forwards Kayla Reinhart and Micaela Gonzalez, both of whom average close to 12 points per game. Reinhart and Gonzalez shoulder most of the rebounding burdens for the team, and will be counted on to neutralize their opponents in the post.
The Comets are 1-0 against CMS, having played back in the 2012-13 season. Though none of the current seniors were in college at that time, they are hungry to even the score. The current Athenas have more experience in the NCAA than the Comets, with six seniors who made the trip the previous three years. Meanwhile the Comets last made an appearance during the 2014-15 season, but struggled to follow up the year after. The CMS forwards will need to utilize their quickness and length to bother the Comets on the defensive end and not be afraid to foul them when they need to. Outside of Crockett and Reinhart, none of the players on the Comets rotation shot higher than 75 percent from the free throw line this season.
On the other end of the Regional bracket, Hendrix (18-10) will face off against No. 8 Trinity (TX) (26-1) this Friday at 3 p.m. PST. The Warriors make their long-awaited return to the NCAA Tournament since 2000, having grinded through the Southern Athletic Association Tournament to claim their spot. Sara Dyslin has been the team's primary weapon on offense, using her size and length to score in the post. Dyslin is averaging a double-double, leading the team with 17.1 points and 12.2 rebounds per game. Despite lacking shooting from the beyond the arc, the Warriors have seen excellent defensive play outside the paint from Heather Prowse and Amber Turner and will count on them to create offense from defense.
Trinity boasts four players who averaged double-digits in scoring this season, including Monica Holguin who leads the team with 15.5 points per game. Micah Weaver has been an excellent two-way player for the Tigers, scoring an efficient 55.3 percent from the field while averaging 15.1 points and nabbing 2.0 steals per contest. The Tigers also have a strong bench unit led by Elizabeth Balido, who averages 8.8 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. Despite boasting several standout individuals, the team's strength rests in their ability to work together.
The Athenas do recognize the long road ahead and know how hard they must work in order to win just a single game in the NCAA tournament. With plenty of talent to supplement the seniors, including sharpshooting junior Kailee Severt (CMC) and the energetic freshman Maya Love (CMC), the Athenas are poised to close the season out in memorable fashion.
By Young Kim
Sports Information Assistant
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