LOS ANGELES —With the Occidental College women's basketball team in an unfamiliar position trailing by two points with 8 minutes, 43 seconds to play in the second half, Brittni Walker (Castaic) converted a three-point play that ignited an 18-2 run to finish off Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, along with Oxy's record-breaking SCIAC regular season championship run, 50-36 at Rush Gymnasium on Saturday.
Oxy secured sole possession of its eighth SCIAC regular season championship, second only to Pomona-Pitzer's 16 championships, and won its 13th league game, the most a Tigers women's basketball team has ever won in the SCIAC.
"I think it's a great accomplishment for our team," said Occidental head coach Heidi VanDerveer, who's won a SCIAC championship in each of her four seasons at Oxy. "They've worked very hard to put themselves in this position."
The Tigers' (22-3, 13-1) win means they won't share their fifth consecutive regular season SCIAC crown with anyone, especially not Redlands, whose own win at Cal Lutheran on Saturday would have put them in a tie for first with the Tigers had they slipped up against CMS (15-10, 9-5).
Walker took a power dribble, absorbed contact and finished the and-one, on a feed from point guard Marquisha Corley (Tucson, Ariz.) in transition, giving Oxy a 35-34 advantage. A little more than a minute later, with her defender fronting her, Walker sealed off CMS' Jennifer Ringoen and kept a pretty lob pass from Stephanie Scamman (Northridge) high enough to score before the help-side defense could react, giving Oxy its largest lead of the second half at that point, 39-35.
From there, Oxy's top-ranked SCIAC defense held CMS without a field goal for the rest of the game, a streak lasting longer than 10 minutes. The Athenas went basket-for-basket with the Tigers for 30 minutes, but managed just three free throws after Jennifer Sitton made their last field goal of the game with 10:48 remaining.
"I think our defense has been very good all year," VanDerveer said. "We made them take tough, contested shots, specifically (Frannie Hemmelgarn)." Hemmelgarn, the conference's third leading scorer behind only Oxy's Makenzie Brandon (Seattle) and Pomona-Pitzer's Alexis Sones, was just 1 for 11 in the second half after shooting 3 for 5 in the first. Hemmelgarn led CMS with nine points.
Brandon scored a game-high 21 points, her 13th game with 20 or more points this season and fourth consecutively.
Liz Little (Littleton, Colo.) and Walker each added seven off the bench for the Tigers.
Gabriela Hirsch-Gonsalez, Oxy's lone senior, was honored with flowers and a brief ceremony prior to the game. With a little more than a minute left and the game in hand, she got in just long enough to attempt a field goal and grab an offensive board before the final buzzer sounded on her senior day.
The Oxy records aren't done falling just yet either. No Oxy women's basketball team has ever won 23 games in a season and Brandon is now in just 20 points — just less than two more than her average (18.2) — away from 1,000 career points.
Oxy will host Cal Lutheran University (16-9, 9-5), the only conference team to beat Oxy in the regular season, in the SCIAC semi finals on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at Rush Gymnasium.
"I think we have to concentrate, look back at our film and see what matchups, both defensively and offensively, where they were able to break us down," VanDerveer said. "And we'll see what kind of advantage we might find off of that."