By Jarrod Castillo, Contributor
As time expired, sophomore guard Shanaijah Davison heaved a last-second shot from the right side, just outside the 3-point line as the buzzer sounded that saw nothing but the bottom of the net.
That would have been a great ending to the game, had it not been for the fact that Long Beach State (5-9 Big West, 8-19 overall) had spent the game being soundly beaten by the UC Davis Aggies (12-1 Big West, 20-6 overall).
“These young ladies played hard,” Long Beach State head coach Jeff Cammon said. “We just have to continue to improve and we will.”
The game started off inauspiciously for the Beach as they quickly found themselves in a 14-3 hole less than four minutes into the contest. In particular, senior Morgan Bertsch punished any Long Beach State defender that attempted to stop her as she had seven points by the end of the first quarter.
Down 19-8 to start the second quarter, Long Beach State played with more vigor as they clawed their way back into the game. After being held to 1-of-4 shooting in the first, Davison found her rhythm somewhat, going 2-of-4 from the field for six points and helped cut the deficit to 10, 30-20, going into halftime.
Davison led the way for Long Beach State with nine points, while Bertsch had 10 points to lead all scorers in the first half.
As the second half started, it seemed the Beach had left whatever energy they had left in the locker room as Long Beach State came out flat: they had the same amount of field goals (3) as turnovers as they shot 20 percent from the field, including 2-of-6 from 3-point land. The lead ballooned to 19, 50-31, by the end of the third, thanks to Bertsch scoring 10 more points in the quarter.
With a dismal third quarter behind them, the Beach played harder in the fourth and outscored their opponents, a recurring theme through four of the last six games. When asked about the sudden change in the team’s play when the fourth quarter started, Cammon attributed it to inexperience as the game began to wane.
“I just think the sense of urgency changes,” he said. “You have to find a way to get easy buckets and tonight, we just weren’t able to do that.”
Though points were hard to come by, sophomore Naomi Hunt didn’t seem too phased. After being hindered by foul trouble all night, Hunt scored eight quick points to start the fourth to cut the lead to 13, 52-39, with 8:41 left
“We were just down so I knew our offense had to get a spark,” she said. “So I just decided to do what I could do, shoot, have confidence, and that happened.”
That would be the closest the Beach would get as in the end, that quick burst by Hunt was for naught, as the Aggies quickly regained their stride thanks in large part to sophomore Cierra Hall scoring five points matching Hunt’s eight.
As the final buzzer sounded, the Aggies downed Long Beach State, 66-49 with Bertsch leading all scorers with 25 points and six rebounds. Meanwhile, Hunt had 16 points and five rebounds for the Beach.
With this year’s team echoing their performance from last season, Cammon says that ultimately, the senior leadership of last season is what differentiates the two teams.
“I think for us, we’re struggling to find that leadership because we are so young and there’s no person that’s been there,” he said. “I think it’s trial by error right now and I think we’re growing together and I do see some leaders emerging.”
“I tell them all the time ‘you’re not sophomore or freshmen anymore, you’ve played a year.’ So let’s take all the things we’ve learned from competing and practice and let’s use that towards the end of this year,” he concluded.
Long Beach State takes on CSU Fullerton on Thursday March 8 at 7 p.m. in their final home game of the season.