By Jarrod Castillo Staff Writer
Some 18 years after “Rocky V,” Sylvester Stallone shocked the world by releasing “Rocky Balboa” in 2006, the supposed swan song of the “Rocky” franchise.
Even though the movie was, by all estimations, an average film, there is a particular quote from Rocky that stood out.
“But it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward, how much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!”
This quote perfectly encapsulates the season that the 2017-2018 LBSU women’s basketball team had. Although they were hit with several hooks and haymakers throughout the season, the Beach were able to rally together and keep moving forward, eventually finding a way to win at the tail end of the season.
However, the Beach started the season ominously, losing 8 out of its first 10 games, with lone wins coming against Arizona and Grand Canyon University. With seven freshman on the squad, that start was expected, as this was the first time they faced Division 1 level opponents.
Things would go from bad to worse in the next two months. From Dec. 12 to Feb. 3, the Beach lost 13 straight games by an average of 13.5 points per game. In seven games at home, the team lost by an average of 14.9 ppg, as opposed to 11.8 ppg on the road.
Nonetheless, LBSU never gave up and eventually snapped that streak with a 59-51 upset away at Cal State Northridge. Although LBSU would lose the next two games, the Beach took the punches in stride and kept moving forward.
The team then went on an improbable five-game winning streak, which kicked off with a 20-point win over local rivals Cal State Fullerton, their first home win of the season. During this stretch, LBSU won by an average of 11.4 ppg, a sign that the team was turning the corner on both ends of the floor.
After being slated to miss the Big West tournament because of their slow start, the team found the necessary momentum to propel themselves into the tournament at the end of the season.
With the Beach looking to advance in the tournament, they would face a team that they defeated during their five-game win streak: University of California, Riverside. After beating Riverside by 12 points in the penultimate game of the season, LBSU had every right to feel confident that they could replicate the result five days prior.
That confidence would go out the window as Riverside played with more energy, out hustling, outshooting, out-rebounding and essentially outplaying LBSU from the jump. The Beach would lose 79-66, prematurely ending their season after a surprising winning streak.
Although the Beach ended the season on a sour note, what people tend to forget is that in the first “Rocky” movie, Balboa actually lost to Apollo Creed after going the distance. It wasn’t until “Rocky II” that Balboa beat Creed in the final round via knockout, shocking fans.
How does this all tie together, you ask?
In a league full of Apollo Creeds, LBSU survived the flurry of punches that almost knocked them out and went the distance. If the Beach end up winning the entire conference next season, not only do they have “Rocky II” to thank, but also the resiliency, grittiness and toughness that the women’s basketball team developed after a season of hardship.
It would only be fitting.