LOS ANGELES — If you saw the Lakers/Clippers battle it out on Wednesday night, then Thursday's women's basketball game between Occidental College and the University of Redlands would have looked familiar.
The top two SCIAC squads weren't paired up in a cross-hallway showdown, but the chippiness and stakes of a growing rivalry made for plenty of suspense.
After two double-technical fouls, 11 lead changes, a 30-point night from the SCIAC's leading scorer and some trash talk on both sides, the Tigers (14-3, 6-1 SCIAC) held off the Bulldogs (12-6, 6-1 SCIAC) 61-58, joining them in a tie for first place atop the SCIAC standings with one round in the books.
"I think that it's a great way to end the first half," Occidental coach Heidi VanDerveer said. "I thought we beat a very good team and it was a battle. … They are big and physical and so are we. "
Makenzie Brandon (Seattle) scored 30 points — 23 to push Oxy in front by six at the half — then, after being held scoreless through the first 11 minutes of the second, she scored seven points down the stretch.
Had the Tigers lost, they would almost surely needed to win-out and get some help from another SCIAC school against Redlands.
It was an important win for Oxy to not only get back into first and keep controlling its own destiny intact, but to recover from its first conference loss of the season at Cal Lutheran on Jan. 21."
"Coming off a loss from Cal Lu, we really, really wanted this one," said Brandon, who also grabbed five rebounds and had six steals. "It kind of fuels the fire even more than if we just had an undefeated record."
Brandon's biggest point was a free throw with 28 seconds left that stopped a 4-0 Redlands run and gave the Tigers a two-possession cushion. On the next play, Ashley Sevilla converted three-free throws of her own after being fouled by Oxy's Liz Little (Littleton, CO). With the Bulldogs fouling to extend the game, Little quickly redeemed herself by sinking two free throws at the other end. Marika Staton put up one last desperation three that missed wide left as time expired.
For 40 minutes, it was as tough and competitive a game as both teams have been in all season.
Katelyn Rowe (Carlsbad) and Courtney Carroll, two of the league's best forwards, had an altercation with just less than 2 minutes left while standing next to each other on the lane line waiting for a free throw. Carroll exaggerated a gentle shove from Rowe causing both teams to jaw back and forth. Rowe and Ashley Sevilla were hit with a double technical for trash talking, the second time the referees decided there was too much extracurricular activity from both teams on the night — toward the end of the first half Oxy's Annika Awbrey and UR's Brittany Oster were whistled for a double technical.
"Playing Redlands is always the biggest game for us and the biggest game for them. We've got a really good rivalry going" said Rowe, who finished the game with eight points, seven rebounds and three blocks. "They like to banter and try to get under your skin. There was a moment, but we did a really good job of not letting it get to us."
Oxy's defense forced the Bulldogs into 24 turnovers and held its opponent under 40 percent shooting for the third game in a row.
"Defensively, we were very good at taking away the things we worked hard to do," VanDerveer said. "We got our hands on a lot of passes and were disruptive defensively."
Kaity Lykins and Marika Staton each had 12 points to lead Redlands. Elizabeth Messick (Reno, NV) scored 10 points, grabbed six rebounds and had three blocks for Oxy.
It's a rivalry that should do nothing else but pick up where it left off on Thursday when the team's meet next at Redlands on Feb. 9 with championship and playoff implications almost certainly on the line.
"It's not a storied history, but a history of our teams having exceptional games," VanDerveer said.
Oxy opens the second round of SCIAC play against Pomona-Pitzer on Saturday at 5 p.m. in Rush Gymnasium.