March 9, 2016
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IRVINE, Calif. - Junior Raven Benton hit the game-winner with 0.6 seconds left to lift the third-seeded Long Beach State women's basketball team to a 54-52 win over No. 6 seed Cal Poly in the Big West Tournament quarterfinals Wednesday evening at the Bren Events Center.
After the Mustangs sank a pair of free throws to tie it up at 52-52 with 19 seconds remaining, the Beach called a timeout and advanced the ball to the front court. With the time winding down, Benton got open and junior Jewelyn Sawyer found her for the 18-foot fade away jumper with 0.6 ticks on the clock.
"I think that was a great game by both teams," head coach Jody Wynn said. "Cal Poly is tough. They're a very well-coached team and all three games we've had with them this year have been battles all the way down to the end. I'm just extremely proud of our team's resiliency coming out of the locker room to start the third quarter.
"I think we were really tight and were pressing in the first half," Wynn added. "Raven and Cecily got two early fouls and had to sit, so we never got into an offensive flow, but they were a focused group when we came into the locker room at the half. They understood that we didn't play well offensively and they just wanted to relax and play good team basketball."
Benton finished the night with 11 points, while junior Anna Kim had a team-high 15 points to go along with six rebounds. Classmate Madison Montgomery chipped in seven points, seven boards, three steals and two blocks, while sophomore Gigi Hascheff also had four steals.
LBSU (24-7) shot 36.7 percent from the floor and 35.3 percent from 3-point range. The 49ers finished with 11 steals, forced 18 turnovers and were only outrebounded by five (36-31).
Cal Poly (15-16) took an early 6-0 lead before Long Beach State got on the board with a Cecily Wilson jumper at the 7:42 mark. The Mustangs would push their advantage to eight, but the Beach answered with a 3-pointer from sophomore Jessica Gertz and a couple free throws from Kim to make it 12-9 with 4:29 to go. LBSU was held to just one field goal the rest of the way, allowing CP to go up 18-11 at the end of the first quarter.
The 49ers opened the second period on a 7-2 run to cut the deficit to two (20-18) with 7:25 remaining. Cal Poly would respond with its first three of the tournament, sparking a 5-0 spurt to pull ahead, 25-18. Long Beach State then outscored the Mustangs, 6-1, over the final four minutes with a Kim 3-pointer at the buzzer bringing the Beach back within two, 26-24, at the break.
LBSU came out attacking in the third frame with Benton and Wilson hitting back-to-back threes. That started a 17-5 run which opened up a 41-31 lead for the 49ers at the 5:03 mark. Kim also had five points during that stretch. Cal Poly wouldn't go down quietly as it came right back with a 10-2 spurt to whittle Long Beach State's lead down to 43-40 at the end of the period.
It was a seesaw battle in the fourth quarter with four ties and four lead changes. Cal Poly held a 48-46 advantage at the 3:39 mark before Sawyer hit a pair of free throws and Benton made a driving layup to reclaim the edge with 1:49 remaining. The Mustangs would knot the score two more times, the second coming at 52-52 with 19 seconds on the clock, setting up Benton's game-winner.
Cal Poly shot 39.6 percent from the floor and was just 4-of-22 from beyond the arc. Beth Balbierz scored a game-high 17 points, while Lynn Leaupepe had 11 rebounds.
Long Beach State will advance to the Big West Tournament semifinals on Friday, March 11, where it will take on second-seeded Hawai'i. Tip-off is set for approximately 2:30 p.m. at the Honda Center in Anaheim.
NOTES: Long Beach State remained unbeaten against Cal Poly in the Big West Tournament at 7-0 ... The Beach will be making its 14th appearance in the conference semifinals and first since 2012 ... Jessica Gertz has hit a 3-pointer in 10-straight games and is a perfect 4-for-4 in the last two outings ... Raven Benton notched her third consecutive double-figure scoring performance ... The 49ers held Cal Poly to eight points in the second quarter, marking the 13th time this season they have held an opponent to single digits in a period ... LBSU has finished with at least 11 steals in each of the last five contests ... The Beach came back from a deficit of at least eight points in all three meetings with Cal Poly ... Long Beach State's 24 wins are the most since going 24-8 in 1990-91.