Championship Bid for CMS Women's Basketball Falls Just Short to Redlands in Overtime

Lindsey Cleary had 21 points and 17 rebounds in the close loss
Lindsey Cleary had 21 points and 17 rebounds in the close loss

REDLANDS, Calif. - Senior forward Lindsey Cleary had 21 points, 17 rebounds and tied the score with 10 seconds left in regulation, but the top-seeded Redlands women's basketball team was able to regroup in overtime and earn a 62-55 win in the 2020 SCIAC Championship game on Saturday evening at Currier Gymnasium.

CMS ends the year at 19-8 with the loss after looking to win the SCIAC Championship on the road, defeating Whittier on Thursday at Whittier in the semifinals, and nearly doing the same at top-seeded Redlands on Saturday. The Bulldogs, though, defended their home court in two close SCIAC games (53-51 over Pomona-Pitzer in the semifinals) to earn the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. 

Redlands took a 50-49 lead in regulation with 57 seconds left, when Kellis Dack got her short jumper in the paint to roll in. Cleary was then called for an offensive foul to give the ball back to Redlands, but the Bulldogs were only able to split two at the line to push their lead to two points. CMS called timeout and advanced the ball over midcourt to set up a play, putting several three-point shooters in the game. 

The spread floor worked to the advantage of CMS, as Cleary took a pass at the elbow, paused to size up her options, and did a hard dribble-drive to her left to convert a layup with 10 seconds left to tie the score. 

Redlands missed a short jumper to win, but still left four seconds on the clock, as CMS called timeout to advance the ball again. After the first play was bottled up, the Athenas called a second timeout, and nearly were able to get Cleary a chance to win it right after she tied it, but Dack recovered for a blocked shot which left 1.6 seconds on the clock.

CMS was called for an illegal screen on the ensuing inbounds pass, and Redlands advanced the ball over midcourt and had one final chance to win in regulation, but Alyssa Lee's off-balance 15-footer hit off the rim. 

Redlands scored the first four points in overtime, before Cleary stepped up again, hitting two foul shots, stealing the ball on the perimeter and drawing a foul, and hitting two more foul shots to tie the score 55-55. However, Alyssa Down knocked down a big three-pointer for Redlands with 2:08 left, and the Athenas were unable to come back again as Redlands shot 4-4 at the line in the last minute to seal it. 

CMS had a key 7-0 run in the fourth quarter to take a three-point lead at 44-41. Cleary had a putback to close to within one point, and first-year forward Austyn Masuno drove to her left to put CMS in front. After another defensive stop, Cleary scored again to give the Athenas a 44-41 advantage. 

After that, the teams kept answering each other's plays down the stretch to get it to overtime. Redlands had four straight points to go ahead 45-44, but senior guard Gloria Bates had a driving left-handed layup to put CMS ahead 46-45. Cassandra Lacey hit a tough shot while being fouled, flipping the ball blindly up over her shoulder and having it fall through, as Redlands went ahead 48-46, but Cleary drove and dished to junior guard Maezelle Millan, who hit a big 18-footer to tie it with 3:14 left. 

Cleary's 21 points were two shy of her career high of 23 set earlier this season against Nebraska Wesleyan (by contrast, an up and down game in which the Athenas scored 103 as a team). Her 17 rebounds, meanwhile, shattered her previous best of 11 set earlier this year. She was the only Athena in double figures, though, as the 1-2 punch of Downs (22 points) and Lacey (19 points) were the difference for Redlands. 

CMS loses four key seniors, including Cleary, Bates (six points, six rebounds in the championship game) and guard Lauren Longo, who had a big effort in the semifinals at Whittier with 13 points. Maya Love was also a two-time All-SCIAC player who missed this season with an injury.