The Occidental women’s basketball team clinched the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship with a hard-fought 54-51 victory at Whittier Saturday, ending the regular season with a 20-5 overall record, 12-2 in conference play.
As conference champions, the Tigers will host California Lutheran on Thursday, Feb. 28 at 7:30 p.m. in the first game of the first-ever SCIAC Post-Season Tournament. The winner of that game will move to the Tournament championship on Saturday, March 1.
Saturday’s win caps a remarkable turnaround for the Tigers since the 2000-01 season, when the women finished a disappointing 0-12 in SCIAC action. Under Head Coach Jaime Hoffman, the Tigers have won their first conference championship since 1980 and set new single-season records for wins in conference and overall play.
"It was just two years ago that Stacie Roshon and I were recruiting the players on this team and talking about the possibility of great things to come, including a conference championship," Hoffman said. "And now they have made it happen. I can't tell you how proud I am of the drive and heart of this remarkable group of student-athletes."
The Tigers had to work hard Saturday against Whittier, as the score was knotted four times and there was never more than a six-point gap. While Oxy shot just 30.4 percent from the field, all nine players who stepped on the court contributed, with each scoring at least two points and pulling down a pair of rebounds.
"Tonight was a total team effort," said Associate Head Coach Avi Meyerson. "We were competing out there on every possession as Whittier has a powerful front line."
The frosh-senior duo of Stephanie Babij and Stacie Roshon led the way for Oxy with 13 points apiece, while Babij – playing with a broken finger – recorded her third double-double of the season, pulling down 10 rebounds to Roshon’s nine. Each was 5-for-6 from the line.
Britinee Yasukochi dished out a game-high five assists, adding nine points and one of Oxy’s two steals. Brittany Mally got the start in place of junior transfer Brianne Brown and made her presence known with eight rebounds and five points.
While the Tigers’ offense struggled, the defense stepped up in a big way, holding the Poets to a 26.1 overall shooting percentage. Whittier was scoreless from three-point range in the second half (0-8).
Thus far this year Occidental women have claimed two conference championships, in basketball and cross country. Earlier this month, diver Celeste Faber '09 won the 1-meter competition at the SCIAC swimming and diving championships. Women's soccer placed second in conference and produced SCIAC's first-ever frosh Player of the Year, Jesi Sasaki.