Women's Basketball Falls Short in Playoffs; Lose to Cypress 74-69

With the lights gleaming and the home crowd ready to explode, the SMC women's basketball team geared up for a much-anticipated playoff match-up with the Cypress College Chargers. The game was fought tooth and nail until the end, but Cypress managed a late run in the waning minutes, dealing the Lady Corsairs an excruciating 74-69 loss.

The Lady Corsairs, who rank fifteen, entered the match-up as the slight favorite, as they were seeded three spots ahead of 18th ranked Cypress College. The game was expected to be a close contest throughout and, as predicted, the fans were treated with a nail-biter.

The first half began tentatively, as both teams looked to find their rhythm on offense. Unabashed, SMC sophomore guard Karlia Batalla would take momentum into her own hands as she dashed to the rim for a quick lay-up, giving the Lady Corsairs their first lead of the night.

That momentum was short-lived however, as Chargers guard Elispa Ete'aki drilled back-to-back three pointers, giving Cypress a 4-point lead. The Chargers and Corsairs found themselves in a tough battle as both teams traded baskets and traded the lead.

As the first half progressed, the Chargers size advantage became more and more apparent. Cypress College, with center Rachel Sweezy, were throwing their weight around inside, getting easy looks in the paint and continuously finding their way to the foul line. "They were just bigger than us and you can't teach size," said SMC women's head coach Lydia Strong.

As the half wound down, the lead continued shifting back-and-forth. Neither team was able to pull away, as evidenced by the five lead changes and seven ties in the first half alone. Subsequently, the half ended as the game originally began, with SMC and Cypress College deadlocked at 30-30.

The second half would begin in similar fashion to the first, as neither team looked particularly sharp, resulting in the two teams trading turnovers. The Chargers were the first team to strike however, with a successful free-throw and a jump-shot by Sweezy.

SMC freshman guard Haley Newell injected new life into the Lady Corsairs as she nailed a corner 3-pointer, and in doing so tied the score at 33-33. But as they had for the entire game, the Chargers continued to answer the challenge, scoring inside the paint and getting back to the free-throw line.

The Lady Corsairs, in desperate need for a player to step up, found sophomore forward Chantel Diaz to answer the bell. Diaz starred in the second half, piling up more than half of her points and rebounds en route to a team high of 14 points and 13 boards.

But despite Diaz and the Corsairs' best effort, the Chargers just wouldn't stop coming. Cypress College took a one point lead at the three minute mark and stretched it all the way to six, 71-65, with only 43 seconds left to play in the game. "We just couldn't get those key defensive stops," said Coach Strong.

Although the Lady Corsairs were down, they refused to give up, as Batalla nailed a pull-up 3-point shot to make it a one-possession game, down only 3 points. The Cypress Chargers, however, just wouldn't have any of it as they calmly netted their free-throws and ran out the clock to finish off their upset of the Santa Monica Lady Corsairs.

Despite ending the season with this frustrating loss, Coach Strong was undeterred in her reflection of the women's overall 2009-2010 season. "I'm not disappointed, she said. "Those girls gave us everything they had."