The wild ride of the 2020-21 Long Beach State women’s basketball season came to an abrupt and heartbreaking end in the quarterfinals of the Big West Tournament in Las Vegas on Wednesday night, as the third-seeded Beach were upset by sixth-seeded Cal Poly. The Beach had a one-point lead for the last minute but a Mustang go-ahead shot with 0.6 seconds on the clock ended Long Beach’s season, 61-60.
“I didn’t anticipate this ending,” said LBSU coach Jeff Cammon. “I’m very proud of these young ladies and all the things they pushed through this year. It’s a tough way to lose but everything is a learning experience. It’s all part of it.”
The Beach led 56-55 with 1:50 to play after a three-point play by Kristyna Jesekeova, and were up 60-57 with a minute to play. Cal Poly cut the lead to one point with 33 seconds to go, then fouled Ma’Qhi Berry with seven seconds left. Berry missed both free throws, and that gave the Mustangs the ball with 6.6 seconds left.
Cal Poly players said that the Beach defense took away their initial play design, but the Mustangs got it to Maddie Willett in the post, with Berry guarding her. Willett was able to spin to her left and get a shot up with her left hand–after rolling around the rim, it dropped in with 0.6 seconds left.
“We did a great job on the initial but they got it down,” said Cammon with a laugh, shaking his head. “I’m laughing because I’m hurting. It’s crazy, the highs and lows of this game. We’re on the other end of it tonight.”
It was a wild year for the Beach, with practices that began on the tennis courts at school and featured outdoor shootarounds where strong winds would blow the ball over the backboard. The team rallied and ripped off a 10-game win streak to start conference play, their best start in three decades.
That was followed by a seven-game losing streak in conference, with one win to break the skid before the conference tournament began. Cammon’s team is young, and has no seniors, which had him optimistic even after the loss.
“They’re tired of hearing the same ‘We’re going in the right direction,’ but we are,” said Cammon. “We were able to do some special things this year.”
Naomi Hunt led Long Beach with 14 points, while Justina King had 13 points and Imani Lacy had 11 points.
“We overcame a lot as a team,” said King. “How this feels…we’ll use it as motivation for next year. You don’t want to feel like this again. Use it as fuel for when you know you need to work out more, run more.”
Cal Poly was led by Sierra Campisano, who had 30 points and 12 rebounds; the Mustangs will face UC Irvine tomorrow in the Big West Tournament semifinals.