Long Beach State

Long Beach State Women Battle Into Big West Tournament

From December 8th to February 7th, the Long Beach State women’s basketball team did not win a single game, dropping 12 straight and sinking to the basement of the Big West standings. A road win against CSU Northridge on February 8th proved to the team they could play with anyone in the conference, and they proved that over the last three weeks, winning their final five regular season games.

Just three weeks ago the 49ers looked like they might miss the Big West Tournament. Instead, Saturday evening’s 67-54 win over the Matadors in the Pyramid clinched the seventh seed for the 49ers, and they’ll open tournament play on Tuesday against UC Riverside at Cal State Fullerton at 8:30 p.m.

“I can’t say how proud I am of these young ladies, it’s unbelievable,” said 49ers coach Jeff Cammon after the game, shaking his head about the team’s win streak. “They always played with effort and enthusiasm but now we’re starting to execute and play with toughness and grittiness.”

Cammon’s 49er squad that took the floor on Saturday bore little resemblance to the team that began the season 3-22. That team turned the ball over, frequently blew defensive assignments, and struggled to cobble together a consistent offensive identity.

The team that easily bested the Matadors on Saturday was a defensive force, holding the Big West’s best scorer to eight points. The 49ers took care of the ball, with just three turnovers in the first half, and their offense was unstoppable at times. Long Beach State has found its identity: playmaking guards Shanaijah Davison and Ma’Qhi Berry break teams down off the dribble and either look to score or to kick the ball out. Davison had 16 points and seven assists and is the most promising freshman the 49ers have had in years; Berry added four points and seven assists.

The senior leaders Cece Wilson and Jess Gertz handle most of the rest of the scoring—Wilson led all scorers with 17 points while Gertz hit four 3-pointers to finish with 12 points.

“I never doubted that we’d be going to the Tournament, I knew we could do it,” said Wilson. “I’ve been here before so I’m trying to not look too much into the ‘five in a row’—it’s one and done from here on out.”

The 49ers’ freshman class has been special, with Davison and Berry joined by Emma Merriweather (six points, six rebounds) and Naomi Hunt (seven points, seven rebounds). Three 49ers starters on Saturday were freshman and four of the team’s top six players by minutes played were freshmen—the future is bright, and it may have arrived sooner than even Cammon was expecting.

That’s in part thanks to the surprisingly rapid development of Davison, who arrived on campus as a pure driver and scorer. She’s quickly added spot-up shooting as well as point guard ability to her game, with a career-high seven assists on Saturday including a pair of highlight-worthy dimes.

“She loves the game, and she’s learning how to put the time in off the floor,” said Cammon. “It’s nothing for her to come in and get shots up but she’s really paying attention in film, she’s taking the next step mentally.”

“My court vision has gotten a lot better over the season,” said Davison, who seemed pumped up for the upcoming Tournament. “I’m excited, I’m ready,” she said.

Mike Guardabascio
An LBC native, Mike Guardabascio has been covering Long Beach sports professionally for 13 years, with his work published in dozens of Southern California magazines and newspapers. He's won numerous awards for his writing as well as the CIF Southern Section’s Champion For Character Award, and is the author of three books about Long Beach history.