Comeback win sends Panthers to SCIAC championship

Anne Yoshimura (photo by Larry Newman)
Anne Yoshimura (photo by Larry Newman)

ORANGE, Calif. – Trailing by 11 points at halftime, the Chapman University women's basketball team made an improbable comeback to beat the University of Redlands, 64-62 in the SCIAC Postseason Tournament Semifinal at the Hutton Sports Center on Thursday night. The win punches the Panthers' ticket to the SCIAC championship game on Saturday at Cal Lutheran.

The Panthers entered Thursday night's game riding an eight-game win streak, but struggled early as poor shooting set them back 12-5 in the first eight minutes. The Bulldogs limited Chapman to just 26.7 percent shooting (8-for-30) before the half, entering the break leading 33-22.

The Panthers opened the second-half with a renewed energy, sparking an 8-2 run that brought the Bulldogs' lead down to five at 36-31 with 16:45 remaining. Senior Anne Yoshimura led the charge, scoring 10 of her game-high 15 points in the first 8:20. Junior Kimi Takaoka's back-to-back jumpers with 6:27 remaining gave the Panthers a 50-49 lead, their first since the opening basket of the game.

The lead would not last long as the Bulldogs jumped right back in front, starting a battle that would generate five lead changes in just over five minutes. The Panthers would see their 60-58 lead slip away on consecutive buckets from Redlands' Brittany Oster and Colleen Goeser as the game went under the two-minute mark.

With the crowd on its feet and just 1:10 remaining in the Panthers' season, freshman Sandra Gao drove into the paint and scored while being fouled to tie the game at 62-62. Injured on the play, Gao was forced to the bench and freshman Lauren Sato was called upon to shoot the free throw in her place. Sato converted on the free throw attempt, the only shot she took in the game, giving the Panthers a 63-62 lead.

As the final seconds ticked off the clock, the Panthers' defense prevailed forcing two missed shots and icing the game on a steal by Gao with five seconds remaining.

The Panthers nearly doubled their first-half point output, scoring 42 points after the break on 69.6 percent shooting (16-for-23). All five Panthers starters scored in double digits, including guard Andrea Villanueva, who scored 14 points on 7-of-9 shooting. Takaoka, Gao and Emily McCoy finished the game with 11 points each.

The Panthers will head to Cal Lutheran on Saturday for their first-ever SCIAC championship game, tip-off is set for 5 p.m. in Thousand Oaks. The Panthers split two regular season matchups with the Regals, with each team winning on its home court. A win over top-ranked Cal Lutheran would automatically qualify the Panthers for an NCAA tournament bid.

Coach Jue postgame interview:

Anne Yoshimura postgame interview:

by Ryan Cavinder
Sports Information Assistant

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