Nearly one year ago, a historic season for the Sea Lions ended in heartbreaking fashion against Hawaii Pacific in the PacWest Championship. Nearly two months ago, more disappointment appeared to be on the horizon, as a team with high expectations began the season 2–8.
And then, starting on Jan. 17, the team went on an 11-game winning streak that is still ongoing. It was just what the doctor ordered. The Sea Lions are now in fourth-place within the PacWest and have already clinched a spot in the postseason. But perhaps more importantly, the team avenged Hawaii Pacific by a score of 64–56 for its tenth win of the streak, and thus proved that they could compete with anybody in the conference.
“We talk about it at the beginning of the season: basketball is a marathon,” said third-year Head Coach Lisa Faulkner following the team’s victory over the defending PacWest champions. “It’s a process of getting better every single day in practice, and building up towards February and March when you want to be playing your best basketball. Going into February, we were playing really well. I knew this would be a big week for us, seeing where we were at going into the conference tournament.”
With about five minutes remaining, the team trailed Hawaii Pacific by three, but multiple key defensive stops and three-point shots sparked a 17–6 run to give the Sea Lions a signature victory.
“This is a huge game for us, probably the biggest of the season. That win really sends a message to everybody,” said sophomore guard Sydney Peterson, who currently leads the team with 15.3 points per game. “Carol [Schroeder] always gets us consistent rebounding, especially on the offensive end. She’s really our spark, and always makes those big plays for us.”
Sophomore guard Cara Liggins, who leads the team with 8.4 rebounds per game, felt the team’s defense was what ultimately sparked the game-clinching run.
“It starts on defense… The biggest thing is, in the fourth quarter, we started feeling confidence from those defensive stops,” Liggins said. “I think that’s where the momentum on offense came from.”
Anything can happen in the postseason, but the importance of beating the team that sent you home last season cannot be understated.
“Hawaii Pacific, I give them a ton of credit,” Faulkner said. “They are very well-coached, they play hard, they have good players. For us to win a game against them was huge…they out-toughed us in the Conference Championship game last year, and tonight we did that to them.”
The team has one final regular season home matchup against Concordia on Saturday at 2 p.m. before the start of the PacWest Championships on March 7.