The Pacific women’s basketball team’s run in the West Coast Conference tournament has come to an end. However, the Tigers are holding out hope that their season still has life.
Pacific came back from a double-digit deficit to take a lead with two minutes left in the game, but eventually lost 87-84 to Pepperdine in the quarterfinals of the WCC Championships, held Saturday at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.
Pacific will now await the selections for the 64-team field in the Women’s National Invitation Tournament, which will be revealed March 17.
Brooklyn McDavid had 22 points and five rebounds for the Tigers (18-12), with Valerie Higgins adding 19 points and six rebounds. Jessica Blakeslee, Ameela Li and Lianna Tillman – a Lincoln High product, scored 11 points apiece.
Pepperdine led 49-38 at the half, though head coach Bradley Davis said it wasn’t necessarily a product of poor play by the Tigers, but instead a hot shooting start by Pepperdine. The Waves shot nearly 70 percent in the first quarter before cooling down slightly at 50 percent in the second.
“We made a couple mistakes,” Davis said. “But you have to give Pepperdine a lot of credit for shooting well and coming out blazing.”
The Tigers trailed by as much as 54-40 with 6:52 to play in the third quarter. Then, they rattled off a 12-1 run over the next three minutes to get to within two points of the lead.
“The ability to come back like that, I couldn’t be more impressed with our team,” Davis said.
When it came down to it, Davis said, the best explanation for Saturday was a good, hard-fought WCC playoff game by both sides. In a span of minutes, Pepperdine would rebuild a 10-point lead, only to have it dashed to 69-66 after three quarters.
In the fourth, Pacific tied the game four different times before a jump shot by Tillman broke the fifth knot and gave the Tigers an 83-81 lead with 2:02 to play in the game. But the Waves responded, scoring six of the last eight points of the game to hold on for the win.
Davis said the Tigers aren’t ready to be done yet, and are hoping to earn a berth in the WNIT bracket. The group has fun playing together, he said, and put together a special season this year.
Pacific had its share of issues, he said, with injuries and other factors coming into play. Each time, though, the Tigers have responded to the adversity.
“We’ve had a number of adverse situations, and attacked that adversity head on,” Davis said. “I couldn’t be more proud of this team.”
Regardless of how things play out, Davis said, this run has helped set the groundwork for seasons to come. Pacific has won at least one game in each of the past three WCC Championships, and the experience should benefit a roster heavy with underclassmen.
So, while the careers of seniors like Li and Chelsea Lidy may be near an end, they’ve been key in advancing this program to where it stands today, and the kind of progress it could make in the future.
“This team deserves a lot of credit for fighting and setting the standard,” Davis said. “But also for helping gain these experiences for next year’s team.”