Photo by: Tony Leon/ActionWestPhotography.com
WHITTIER, Calif. – It all came down to the final possession Saturday night as senior Zaria Branch (San Diego, Calif.) would knock down a three-pointer at the buzzer sending the Whittier College Women's Basketball team to the 58-57 victory over Caltech.
The final seven minutes of the game proved to be the most exciting. Whittier erased a ten-point deficit to start the fourth but still saw themselves trailing 53-45 at the 7:02 mark following an Elizabeth Eiden layin. Teani White (Burbank, Calif.) converted a layup that cut the deficit to six with 6:08 to play and after a stop on the defensive side, Branch would come down and knock down a triple that moved the score to 53-50.
Over the next two minutes it was back and forth until White was able to add a layup that pulled WC within one. Following two turnovers from Grace Peng, Whittier capitalized with Branch taking it to the rack with an easy two that put the Poets on top 54-53 with under a minute to play. But the game wasn't done there as Caltech' Eiden would come down and post up inside putting in an easy two off the glass that put CIT back on top with just :11 seconds to play.
After a timeout called by Whittier, White was able to get it to the rack and draw a foul sending her to the free throw line. She would go 1-for-2 from the line tying things up but on the Beavers next possession they were able to pick up a foul on White that sent them to the line for two. Peng would knock down both free-throws putting CIT up two with 3.3 seconds on the clock. A quick inbounds to Branch would bring her across halfcourt where she would put up a three-pointer at the buzzer, the shot hit the back iron and rimmed in sending the Poets to their first buzzer-beater victory on the season.
Whittier shot 38.3% from the field and 32% from behind the arc. They were outrebounded 43-29 but forced 18 Caltech turnovers, while turning them into 19 points. They added 22 points in the paint and received 16 points from the bench.
Four players hit double figures. Branch had a game finishing with 14 points on 6-of-13 shooting to go with six boards, an assist and three steals. Monica Hanna (Bellflower, Calif.) added ten points with five rebounds and White registered 10 points with five boards, three assists, and four steals. Cali Cubel (Oceanside, Calif.) played a supportive role with ten points, going 3-for-8 from the field with four dimes and Daisy Cardenas (Santa Clarita, Calif.) lit it up from deep with three triples.
The first quarter was back and forth with each team adding 19-points. In the second the Poets were able to edge the Beavers 13-12 to take a 32-31 lead into the break. But in the third, things fell apart for the Purple & Gold where they were outscored 20-9 that handed CIT a ten-point lead going into the fourth. In the final period, Whittier had to play catch-up but used their press to force eight Beaver turnovers. They put together an early 13-2 run that put them on top 54-53 and that's when Branch took over.
Whittier remains at home this Wednesday, January 16 as they host Claremont-M-S beginning at 7:00pm.