The562’s coverage of Long Beach State athletics for the 2022-23 season is sponsored by Marilyn Bohl.
For the first time in nearly two decades, Long Beach State women’s basketball returned to the Gold Mine to play an official game against Big West rivals Hawaii. As heavy rainfall made for unplayable conditions inside Walter Pyramid, Saturday’s game was moved to the former home of 49er Basketball.
After an hour-long delay, the Beach (9-7, 4-2 Big West) got right after it against the visiting Rainbow Wahine (5-9, 3-2 BWC), starting fast and holding on for a 62-48 victory that snapped a four-game losing streak against Hawaii.
LBSU looked comfortable in their ancillary gym–which is frequently used for off-season workouts but rarely official contests. In fact, the last time LBSU used the facility for an official basketball game was March 6, 2004, a 66-49 loss against UC Santa Barbara.
On Saturday, the Beach were stout defensively from the opening whistle, taking a 17-7 lead after the first quarter.
“I think COVID prepared all of us for having to make adjustments and weird stuff happening,” said LBSU head coach Jeff Cammon, who praised Hawaii and head coach Laura Beeman for their willingness to play in a different venue. “As weird as it was, it felt normal. We try to not let things that happen impact us, no matter what happens–just stay in the middle and adjust. For our kids, there was no real emotion to it, no real thought, just ‘Hey, this is where we’re playing. Let’s do it.’”
The result was a strong defensive performance by Long Beach State, holding an opponent under 50 points for just the second time this season–and the first since keeping Tulsa to 45 points on Thanksgiving Day. LBSU forced 22 turnovers (including three shot-clock violations) and held UH under 18 percent from beyond the arc (5/28).
Kristyna Jeskeova was the leading force on the defensive end of the floor, collecting six of LBSU’s 14 steals, while also adding nine points, five rebounds and three assists.
Tori Harris scored a team-high 15 points for the Beach while also pulling down a team-best eight rebounds. Six different players scored eight or more points for the Beach, with Malia Bambrick scoring 10 and Ma’Qhi Berry, Kianna Hamilton-Fisher, and Courtney Murphy each finishing with eight.
For Berry, this was the 119th game of her six-year Long Beach State career, but her first ever in the Gold Mine. She admitted the circumstances were strange, but also not too unfamiliar.
“It was weird, but I think we're used to it. Just because there's a lot of time conflicts with other teams as far as them being in the Pyramid, so I have a lot of experience in the Gold Mine,” Berry said. “We have summer workouts in the Gold Mine, preseason practices, and actually last week we worked out in the Gold Mine, so we actually had a little sneak peek of what tonight would look like.”
The Beach held Hawaii scoreless for a stretch of 5:47 in the opening quarter, going on an 11-0 run to make the score 15-5. Harris hit consecutive three’s during that run, where the Beach found a good amount of success shooting 7/22 for the game.
LBSU kept things rolling in the second quarter, holding a commanding 35-20 advantage at halftime.
The Beach led by as many as 20 in the third quarter, but Hawaii started to hit more shots in the second half and eventually trimmed the lead to 11 with under three minutes left, but that’s as close as the visitors could get.
The win gives LBSU a 2-0 week after their road win at Cal Poly on Thursday, and keeps Long Beach State near the top of the Big West standings. Hawaii entered the season as the defending conference champions and preseason favorites, making Saturday’s victory extra important for the Beach.
“Hawaii is always a tough opponent, Laura does such a great job, her young ladies are always prepared, they're physical, they're tough, they're really great competitors,” Cammon said. “So anytime you can beat a team like that, it’s a good thing. I'm really proud of our kids’ effort, their ability to adjust and be ready to play no matter what the circumstances. To be able to come and get a W and defend the way I think we can continue to defend, it was really cool and good to see.”
The Beach will return to the court next Thursday with a trip to Cal State Fullerton, then are scheduled to host UC San Diego next Saturday at 4 p.m. (hopefully) inside Walter Pyramid.
Here's how things looked inside Walter Pyramid just minutes before the scheduled tip-off time: