It still hurts, four days later.
The UC Davis women’s basketball team had its sleeves rolled up as it entered last week’s Big West Conference Tournament.
A terrific first half in the opener against lowly UC Santa Barbara made it clear these Aggies came to play.
But late in the game, UCD center Aly Doherty went down with a knee injury. The Aggies, playing with heart but distracted by the loss of their fallen teammate, muddled through the final eight minutes and escaped with a 58-57 victory.
The following night, in a season-ending 74-70 overtime loss to UC Irvine, leading scorer Sydnee Fipps was felled by ankle and knee injuries.
Fipps returned to cap her 2013-14 season with 22 points, but the next morning spoke volumes about the junior’s courageous final 31 minutes on the court — the forward from Maricopa was in a wheelchair, headed with Doherty for MRIs.
Jennifer Gross said she hoped to have reports on her 1-2 punch this week, but the Aggie head coach preferred to dwell on what the season meant and how her team was one for the ages.
“I know it’s the end of our season, but we were going into the tournament peaking,” she said. “I don’t know where we would have been (in the tournament) without the injuries, but I am incredibly proud of these women … and how they pulled together as a team.”
UCD finished the year at 15-16, its 9-7 conference mark good for a No. 5 tourney seed.
To a person, Aggie staff and players thought it was a season that was tantalizingly close to being something special on the court.
In each other’s hearts, it was a year to fondly remember.
“I’m so incredibly proud of this team,” Gross said after the season finale. “I’ve never been more proud of a group of individuals for how hard they played, how they competed and what they left on the floor.”
From early-season losses at No. 1 Connecticut and then-No. 3 Stanford to winning five of their last seven, these Aggies were close-knit, growing and accomplished …
Doherty’s 55.7 percent from the field led all Big West shooters. She averaged 13.1 points per game and came on strong after a career-high 24 points at Hofstra (a 76-57 loss on Dec. 7) put her in the headlines.
Fipps was the third-leading scorer in conference (17.7 ppg). A model of consistency, she was UCD’s top scorer 23 times. Fipps now has 1,216 career points. When she scores her 28th point next fall, Fipps will pass her coach (1,243) to go into seventh place on the all-time Aggie list.
UCD points queen Carol Rische (1979-83) had 1,711.
“Nothing is going to stop her,” Gross said of the relentless Fipps. “She plays injured every game. She probably needs about 10 surgeries, but she’s not going to do it. She’s there for us every night.
“I am so very proud of her.”
Doherty, by way of El Toro High, was playing as well as any West Coast center, according to Gross.
“(Her injury) is so disappointing,” coach explained. “She was just catching fire … and she put so much into her game.”
Sophomore guard Molly Greubel, a scoring whiz from Santa Ana, wasn’t ticketed as a point guard — but a midseason injury to Brianna Salvatore forced her into action. Greubel drew Gross’ praise:
“Her growth has just been tremendous. She really adapted to point guard and by the end of the season still had that scoring punch, as well as being able to distribute. She stepped up. To finish that (UCI finale) with nine assists and one turnover … remarkable.”
Greubel completed her season with 104 assists (26 of those coming in the three losses to UC Irvine). Her 14 assists against the Anteaters last month in Orange County were a new UCD single-game record.
Two reserve players — forwards Lauren Beyer and Idit Oryon — provided heart when called upon.
“Lauren epitomizes the role player,” Gross told The Enterprise. “She’s the role player everybody wants on their team. She never complains about an assignment, always puts her team first. She was cool when we called her number, absolutely ready.”
About Oryon, the only senior among the Aggie 11, Gross thought the native of Jerusalem, Israel, saved her best basketball for the end of the regular season and the Big West showdowns.
“We will miss her contributions,” Gross added.
The coach spread the love, talking about 3-point specialists Kelsey Harris, sophomores Celia Marfone and Heidi Johnson, junior Salvatore and freshmen Taylor McGuire and Brianne Yasukochi.
“I would have loved to be still playing with our lineup intact,” Gross told The Enterprise. “But it’s nonetheless fun to think about how much our players developed.
“We were still a young team … and with the depth of talent coming back next year, the future is looking really good.”
Notes: Doherty, an All-Big West second-team selection, led UCD in scoring six times. … Fipps’ season-high point total was 25 at Pacific on Nov. 11. She earned her second straight all-conference first-team nod. … Marfone was wicked on the boards toward the end of the season. She was in double digits five times in the last eight games, leading the team in rebounding for four of the final seven contests. … Harris established an Aggie single-season 3-point mark. The transfer from Iowa State canned 86 shots from behind the arc. … It looked like UCD would advance after Beyer’s lay-in with 5.2 seconds remaining gave the locals a 68-66 lead on Wednesday night. But the Anteaters found a lane and tied things before eliminating the Aggies.
— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at email@example.com or 530-320-4456.