The Long Beach State women’s basketball team did have a winning record against the PAC 12 conference this season going 2-1. That changed Wednesday night when the 49ers dropped to .500 with a 56-49 loss to the Utah Utes in the first round of the WNIT.
“It was an awesome opportunity to play in the postseason after thirteen years,” head coach Jody Wynn said. “It was great that the administration cared enough about women’s basketball and stepped up to want to host this game.”
Alex Sanchez led the way for the ‘Niners with 13 points and six assists. Ella Clark added 11 points, five rebounds and two steals. Mary Oglitree, Chantel Dooley and Lauren Spargo each contributed five points apiece.
Sanchez would make back to back baskets to take a brief 6-5 lead, before Utah would respond with a 12-5 run of its on but then neither team could do anything for a five minute stretch until Lauren Spargo scored on a layup to close the gap to 15-17. Utah would then go on a 9-5 run to close out the half to take the 26-20 halftime lead.
Utah’s Michelle Plouffe, who scored a game-high 17 points scored four points and assisted on another basket during the 9-5 run finished with a double-double, grabbing 14 rebounds and recording three steals. Taryn Wicijowski tallied 12 points and six rebounds, while Iwalani Rodriguez added 10 points four rebounds and four assists.
“Even though the record showed that we lost this game, I think we grew a lot because of this game,” Wynn said. “Although we weren't able to pull out the win, I feel like we grew so much throughout the year and learned a lot about what we can do and what we're all capable of doing.”
Ella Clark’s 3-pointer to open the second half closed the gap to 26-23 then Utah would go on another run, opening up the lead as wide as nine points. Long Beach made one more push to get as close as five points, but then Utah would pull away to put the game out of reach with a 13-7 run.
Sanchez is one of eight sophomores along with Juniors Hallie Menesses and Jade Wilson who will be returning next year.
“This game we went out like we had nothing to lose,” said Sanchez. “They were expected to win, but I’m proud of this team because not everyone would bounce back off the loss (against Fullerton last week) the way we did.”