The No. 1-seeded Occidental College Tigers downed the third-seeded Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Athenas 55-49 in Rush Gymnasium Saturday to claim the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference women's basketball postseason tournament championship and take an automatic bid to the NCAA playoffs.
Occidental (19-8, 12-2 SCIAC) will face George Fox University (22-5) of Newberg, Oregon, on March 4 in the first round of the Division III Postseason Tournament. The Bruins, who won their fifth consecutive Northwest Conference championship this year, made NCAA "Elite 8" appearances in 2009 and 2010.
Tipoff at the Hutton Sports Center at Chapman University in Orange is 5 p.m. Tickets are $6, $3 for Oxy students with ID. Children under 12 are free. The winner of Friday night's game will play either Chapman or Louisiana College on Saturday.
This will be the Tigers' second appearance in the NCAA playoffs. Their first trip to the NCAAs in 2009, also under head coach Heidi VanDerveer, ended in the first round with a narrow loss to Chapman University.
The Tigers clinched the 2010-11 SCIAC regular season championship Tuesday with an 82-35 win over the Caltech Beavers. It is the fourth consecutive championship for Occidental, breaking the previous school record of three titles set in 1978-1980. Oxy bested the La Verne Leopards 52-45 on Friday to advance to Saturday's championship game.
The Tigers scored first on Saturday and never relinquished the lead, building a 22-12 lead at the half. Oxy led by as much as 13 in the second half, but the Athenas refused to fold, cutting the Tigers' lead to five with 3:27 left to play. But it was too little, too late as Oxy eventually cruised to a six-point victory.