Clarissa Holz posts a double-double in the losing effort.
The women’s basketball team started Saturday’s game against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps strong, but another poor shooting night resulted in a 61-50 loss, dropping its conference record to 4-8.
“We needed to win out,” junior guard Ashley Paul said referring to the team’s hope of making the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament.
The Leopards must finish in the top four to advance to the conference tournament.
Currently Occidental is pacing the SCIAC, followed by Cal Lutheran and Redlands.
La Verne remains in sixth place.
Saturday’s game started aggressively both on the court and on bench.
The Athenas’ voices were drowned out by the Leopards boisterous cheering, which seemed to empower the girls on the court.
“It’s coming from us,” Paul said about being vocal on the bench. “More heart, more defense.”
Within the first couple minutes the defense was on point. Stephanie Shepard’s steal in the early minutes of the game strengthened the Leopard momentum after she converted the easy lay-up into a three-point play.
A fast passed game was crucial for the Leopards because it allowed open shots for senior guard Tedra Clark and sophomore forward Clarissa Holz.
Clark and Holz were hot in the first half even though as a team the Leopards only hit 31 percent of their shots from the field.
However, turnovers played a crucial role in the game. Sloppy passing by the Leopards caused nine turnovers which slowed down their momentum.
“We got into a funk,” head coach Lindsey Shiomi said. “This season we have struggled with our mental toughness.”
The Leopards left the first half down, 26-24.
After an early Claremont time out with the score tied, 28-28, Paul sunk a remarkable three pointer to put the Leopards on top for the first time in the game.
However, the Leopard lead was short-lived.
The Athenas put their offense into overdrive and utilized their size in the middle.
Claremont’s junior forward Sarah Beattie continually caused trouble for the small Leopard defense who could not keep her out of the middle.
Once CMS saw the opportunity in the middle, the Leopards could not match the points put up by the powerful Athenas.
“Our shots just weren’t falling,” Holz said.
La Verne hit 19 of their 67 shots from the field while CMS put away 21 of 49 attempts.
What hurt the Leopards the most was connecting on only five of their 31 attempts from the three-point line.
Holz led the Leopards with 12 points and 12 rebounds.
“Defensively, we’ve improved. Our intensity is better,” Paul said. “But offensively, our open shots weren’t falling.”
If the team hopes to contend in the SCIAC tournament, it must improve its offense in their last two games.
“We need to persevere. We want to finish strong and continue to make ourselves better,” Shiomi said.
The last regular season game for La Verne will be a home contest at 5 p.m. Saturday against Caltech.
Ashley Morgado can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.