LONG BEACH — Where to begin?
Probably with the score: No. 5 seed UC Davis saw its women’s basketball season come to an end with a 74-70 overtime loss to No. 4 UC Irvine on Wednesday in a Big West Conference Tournament game at the Walter Pyramid.
Playing without center Aly Doherty, watching Sydnee Fipps limp through the last 31 minutes of the game, seeing Lauren Beyer (who spent two years rehabbing an injury) have a career outing …
The Aggie journey of these two days at the conference tourney left the local women with bare emotions.
“In all the years I’ve played basketball, I’ve never ended a season being so proud of a group and how we went out,” said Fipps, who injured her knee and ankle with 6:18 left in the first half but came back to finish the game.
“I think everyone fought so hard. We had so many people step up. That’s why we’re a team. It sucks it didn’t go our way, but I’m really proud of everyone.”
The Aggies (15-16) led 58-56 on Beyer’s clutch hoop with 5.2 seconds remaining in regulation, but Irvine guard Jennifer Tsurumoto found an improbable lane to the basket, throwing this one into overtime.
In the extra period, UCD missed all six of its floor shots while imposing Anteater center Camille Buckley scored four of her 34 points to help UCI advance.
A half-hour after the physical game, UCD coach Jennifer Gross fought back tears in talking about her Aggies:
“I’m so incredibly proud of this team,” she told the assembled media. “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.
“Our team fought from start to finish … we were just a couple possessions short.”
Playing without Doherty, who went down with a knee injury in Tuesday’s one-point win over UC Santa Barbara, UCD used a combination of Celia Marfone, Heidi Johnson, lone senior Idit Oryon and Beyer in an effort to bottle up Buckley.
For much of the first 20 minutes, things went the Aggies’ way.
With frequent first-half substitutions, they unleashed a barrage of treys early.
Kelsey Harris and Fipps both hit a couple from beyond the arc as UCD led 14-9 at 13:37.
But Irvine kept feeding Buckley and Jasmine Bernard inside and tied things at 14-14.
Then, a 7-0 Aggie run featured a Molly Greubel turn-around basket after Taylor McGuire kept a Marfone free-throw miss alive. Johnson and Fipps also contributed buckets during the surge.
However, back came the Anteaters again …
Kelly Meggs canned a 3-pointer and Bernard scored in the paint off a Buckley assist. When Lauren Spinazze sank two charity tosses, UCI had come all the way back, 24-24.
In the interim, local fans had their hearts in their throats. For a minute, it looked like lightning hit UCD for the second night in a row.
Following a Marfone block, Fipps crumpled to the floor on an aborted drive. Lying out of bounds grabbing her left leg, the Aggies’ leading scorer was attended to by trainer Lisa Varnum.
To the relief of Gross and Company, Fipps would return — heavily taped — three minutes later. Almost immediately, her 3-pointer gave UCD a 29-26 lead and, when Marfone added a trey of her own, the Aggies were up, 32-28, at intermission.
Fipps scored 14 in the first 20 minutes (22 for the game).
“My knee was moving not where it should and my ankle shifted,” said Fipps, not at all interested in talking about herself or the injury.
In the end, Irvine coach Doug Oliver knew with Doherty out, he would feed the ball inside.
All-Big West first-teamer Buckley hit 12-of-24 shots (all but one in the paint) and was 10-for-15 from the free throw line. She pulled down a game-high 17 rebounds.
Nonetheless, the Aggies held their own on the glass, getting outboarded only 46-40.
Marfone had eight rebounds to go with 14 points and Johnson scored 12 with five caroms. But both eventually fouled out.
Meanwhile, Oryon and Beyer played hard inside, too. Oryon drew three charges, had a block, dished out four assists and gathered four rebounds.
“She an undersized post,” Gross said of the graduating Oryon. “She took a couple of charges and worked really, really hard to keep the ball out of Buckley’s hands.”
Beyer played a career-high 24 minutes, during which she got seven boards and scored 6.
Harris added to her school single-season record 86 treys with four more 3-pointers. She finished with those 12 points.
Notes: UC Irvine (17-14) continues on to the Honda Center on Friday for a noon semifinal game against league regular-season champ Cal State Northridge. No. 3 seed Hawaii beat Long Beach State, 52-49, and gets No. 2 Cal Poly on Friday at 2:30 p.m. …Sophomore point guard Greubel had nine assists and only one turnover. … Gross said there was no definitive diagnosis on either Doherty’s or Fipps’ injuries. … The score was tied 12 times with six lead changes … UCD went 0-3 against Irvine this season.
— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at [email protected] or 530-320-4456.