Jim Tranquada

The Tigers will face the La Verne Leopards at home Saturday in the championship game of the 2009 Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference post-season tournament after cruising to a 79-51 victory over the Whittier College Poets at Rush Gymnasium Thursday.


Junior Gillian Nugent exploded with 19 points and hit four consecutive three-pointers after Whittier got within 16 points, building a significant lead in the second half as Occidental earned its 21st victory of the season.

Whittier (16-10, 8-6 SCIAC) struck first, but Oxy answered with a 16-0 run to take a commanding lead and a 36-19 advantage into the locker room at the half. It was more of the same for Oxy in the second, as the Tigers led by at least 16 for the entire 20 minutes, pushing the lead to as much as 31 points.

Overall the Tigers shot 46.7% from the field and held the Poets to 39%. Three other Tigers joined Nugent in reaching double figures including Brianne Brown ’09 (15) and sophomores Stephanie Babij (14) and Dior Williams (10). Madeline Rose '11 had a game-high seven assists and Williams added to her conference lead in steals with four on the night.

Whittier’s Kourtney Zilbert fouled out with 2:42 to play in regulation after posting a team high in both points (17) and rebounds (12), recording the only double-double of the game. Ashley Vierra finished with 12 points for the Poets.

Oxy split with La Verne this season, dropping a heart-breaking 65-60 loss at the hands of the Leopards on Jan. 29. The Tigers avenged the loss at home last Saturday in a 57-54 season finale to claim their second SCIAC title in as many years. La Verne (19-6, 10-4) qualified for the final Thursday by hanging on to upset the University of Redlands (19-7, 11-3) 50-48 at Currier Gymnasium, the Bulldogs’ home court.

The Tigers and Leopards will meet in the tournament championship game in Rush Gymnasium at 5 p.m. Saturday. The winner earns the conference’s automatic bid into the NCAA Division III playoffs.

Tickets for the event are $5 for adults, $2 for children 12 and under and senior citizens 55 and older and free to Occidental and La Verne faculty, staff and students with current ID cards. The ticket booth will open one hour prior to tip-off.