ORANGE, Calif. – The CMS women's basketball team built an 11-point lead in the fourth quarter, and hung on as junior guard Maya Love stole an inbounds pass with three seconds left to secure a huge 49-47 road win on Saturday afternoon.
The win was the 12th in a row for the Athenas (with their last loss at home to Chapman on Dec. 1), as they improve to 15-2 overall and 8-1 in the SCIAC, moving two games ahead of the Panthers (6-3). CMS will now face Pomona-Pitzer (7-1 in SCIAC heading into tonight's game at Caltech) on Thursday at home in a battle for first place in the league.
Love tied for team-high honors with 12 points, along with senior forward Ellery Koelker-Wolfe (pictured), who started the fourth quarter with a personal 6-0 run to build the CMS lead from five to 11. Junior guard Gloria Bates added 11 for the Athenas on 5-7 shooting.
CMS had to hang on late, as it led 49-38 with 5:19 to go after a pair of Love foul shots, but did not score again, as the Panthers cut it to two in the final minute and earned possession for the final 14 seconds with a chance to tie or win in regulation. Marissa Dunn hit a tough running jumper with 1:39 left to make it 49-45, and Madison Shigeya leaked out for a fast break lay-up with 44 seconds to go.
Julia Strand had a block and Love was unable to convert on the putback just before the shot clock expired, before Chapman secured possession with 14 seconds left. The Panthers drove to the basket, and Love got a hand on an entry pass, deflecting the ball out of bounds with three seconds left. On the ensuing inbounds pass to the top of the key, Love jumped up and got her hand on the pass, then won the battle for the loose ball, racing into the offensive end of the court to dribble out the remaining seconds.
The Athenas scored the last three points of the third quarter, including a Koelker-Wolfe jumper, to take a narrow 39-34 lead heading into the fourth. Koelker-Wolfe then started the fourth with three straight baskets, hitting a pull-up jumper from the free throw line, driving for a lay-up and then hitting a 15-foot baseline jumper off a kickout pass from junior forward Lindsey Cleary, giving the Athenas their largest lead of the game at 45-34 with 7:40 left. The lead stayed between 9-11 points for the next several minutes, before Chapman made its final push that came up short.
CMS dominated the game defensively in the early going, holding Chapman scoreless for the final 6:20 of the first quarter, using a 10-0 run to take a 12-6 lead after the opening 10 minutes. After the Panthers opened the second quarter with a three-pointer to make it 12-9, CMS again held Chapman scoreless for a span of 5:50, holding a 19-9 lead with four minutes left in the half after a three-pointer from junior guard Lauren Longo.
Chapman hung in there on the defensive end, though, and didn't allow the Athenas to build much separation after scoring only nine points in the first 16 minutes. After a lay-up from sophomore forward Kate Parrish had the Athenas ahead 21-12 with 2:20 in the half, the Panthers closed out on an 8-1 run, including 6-6 at the foul line, to close within 22-20 at the break.
Chapman carried that momentum into the second half and briefly took a lead at 27-26 with 6:51 left in the third, but Love answered right back with a driving lay-up. Her shot was followed by driving baskets from Bates and sophomore guard Maezelle Millan to stretch the lead up to 32-27. Jaryn Fajardo had a three-point play for Chapman to cut the lead to 36-34 with 1:19 left in the half, but Koelker-Wolfe had a lay-up and Bates added a foul shot in the final seconds to make it 39-34 heading into the fourth.
CMS came into the game leading the SCIAC by a wide margin in team defense (53.0 ppg) and improved that average by holding rival Chapman to only 47. The two teams have squared off in each of the last two SCIAC Championship games, with CMS winning in 2017 and Chapman taking last year's match-up in double overtime. The Panthers shot just 31.8 percent from the floor (14-44), staying in the game by converting 17-21 foul shots, compared to 8-13 for CMS. The Athenas also had a 40-30 edge on the boards, led by seven from Love.
The Athenas will look to extend their winning streak to 13 games on Thursday night when they welcome in co-leader Pomona-Pitzer to Roberts Pavilion with a chance to take over sole possession of first place. CMS is trying for its sixth straight season with at least a share of the SCIAC regular season title.