Anaheim — The Mustangs of Cal Poly were too big, too strong and too quick for the Matadors women’s basketball team on Thursday, when their season ended by way of a 74-65 loss in the second round of the Big West Tournament at the Anaheim Convention Center.
‘It was a tough way to go,’ Matadors Head Coach Staci Schulz said.
Schulz was upset the season came to an end, but she was happy it didn’t end sooner.
‘I’m happy the season came to an end in the tournament and in the second round,’ Schulz said. ‘All seasons come to an end and I’m happy it ended like this for my seniors (Tonicia Tademy, Ashley Blake and Whitney Ligon).’
Tademy, Blake and Ligon were Schulz’s leaders and they showed it in the way they played in their final college game.
Ligon and Blake led the team in scoring with 16 and 12 points respectively. Tademy had a game-high six assists.
‘I thank these three players and I love them,’ Sculz said. ‘ The love and pain could be seen in their faces as they stood at the postgame press conference podium, but they had some joy in departing.
‘I never played in a stadium like this,’ said Ligon, who transferred to CSUN last season. ‘It was great to play in a game like this. It was everything I hoped it would be.’
Making the tournament was just as important to the team, especially after a winless conference season last year, Blake said. ‘We had been through a lot last season and it was a big accomplishment,’ she said. ‘It was our goal.’
For nearly eight minutes, the Matadors led the game, showing that they might have had enough to continue their run through the tournament.
With Poly heating up in the last eight minutes of the opening half though, things slowed down for the Matadors ‘ who trailed 41-34 heading into halftime.
The player that got the Mustangs going was Kristina Santiago, who shot a perfect 5-for-5 in the first half.
‘Kristina played an amazing game,’ Mustangs Head Coach Faith Mimnaugh said. ‘I saw the other players looking around like ‘who’s gonna defend her?’ But they couldn’t slow her down.’
Santiago was second in points scored this season in the Big West and she was tied for total points with Ligon at the end of the game. She also had four rebounds.
Mimnaugh said she wished she could have rested Santiago a little bit more, but the way she was performing, there wasn’t much she could do.
‘I know she would like to stay on the court the entire game, but we were hoping to rest her.’ Mimnaugh said. ‘But looking at the stats, it didn’t work that way.’
Santiago has played the Matadors tough in the past, scoring 18 and 16 points respectively in the teams’ regular-season metings, but she didn’t want to take all the credit.
‘This was a big win and it goes to our team play,’ Santiago said. ‘When we were executing, it was awesome.’
The entire game wasn’t awesome with the way the Mustangs started it out, Mimnaugh said.
‘We were struggling in the opening minutes,’ Mimnaugh said. ‘They pressured us and we made some shaky decisions.’
The Mustangs were able to handle the pressure and get back to their game, Mimnaugh said.
The type of game they played was a bit out of the reach of the Matadors, Schulz said.
‘We knew coming back from the half we needed to take care of a couple of things,’ Schulz said. ‘They take off really quick and we weren’t able to get to the top.’
The team was basically a half step behind the Mustangs, Schulz said.
CSUN was more than a half step behind in the second half, trailing by 14 points almost the entire 20 minutes.
With about one minute left, the Matadors finally got close to Cal Poly, drawing within six, the smallest margin ‘ of the entire second half. It wasn’t enough.
The Matadors went seven minutes without a field goal in the second half. The first basket to end the dry spell was courtesy of a layup from freshman center Jasmine Erving with eight minutes left. Erving had 10 points and six rebounds.
The end of the season was reminiscent of the entire season, with the Matadors playing tough, but not being able to close things out in the end.
The 2008-09 Matadors were unable to get to their final goal, but gained the respect of both Mimnaugh and UC Davis Head Coach Sandy Simpson, who were impressed with the way CSUN ended its season: in a blaze.