Aggie head coach Jennifer Gross said it was a team victory — one in which she told her squad “whether you played two minutes or 30, you contributed. We needed every one of you to win.”
The bottom line? Kelsey Harris drilled a dramatic 3-pointer with 16 seconds left as the UC Davis women’s basketball team knocked off visiting Long Beach State, 63-60, at The Pavilion.
But there were so many other highlights …
* The win evened the locals’ Big West Conference mark at 1-1 while improving them to 6-9 overall.
* Celia Marfone, the 6-foot sophomore from Laguna Hills, returned to the lineup and performed well — in her first game since Dec. 7.
* Sydnee Fipps recorded a double-double.
* Emerging post standout Alyson Doherty blocked four shots, grabbed eight rebounds and scored 12 points.
* For good measure, UCD efficiently handled the 49ers’ trap press, although once safely on the offensive end of the court, it’s clear the Aggies still battle the Turnover Demon (26 on the day).
“This is a huge win for us. It was a must win,” Marfone told The Enterprise afterward. “We’ve been emphasizing how important home games are for us, especially in conference. We can’t let ‘em slip. On Thursday (a 56-52 loss to Northridge), we let it slip. Now, coming away 1-1, is huge.”
In a game that saw the lead change hands six times and was tied on 11 occasions, UCD managed to overcome Long Beach’s biggest lead (21-17) with a nifty seven-point run on just two first-half possessions.
First, Idit Oryon sank a 3-pointer as 49er Jewelyn Sawyer laid her out.
Oryon converted the free throw.
After an LBSU hairball, Marfone scored, thanks to Brianna Salvatore’s assist. On the play, Marfone was sent to the charity stripe — again by Clark — and made her free throw.
Salvatore threw a little more fuel on UCD’s flash fire when she swiped a Madison Montgomery pass and eventually found Taylor McGuire open for a layup.
Thanks to the 9-0 outburst, the Aggies took a 26-21 lead — a bulge it would expand to a 39-28 by intermission.
But the 49ers (9-7, 1-1) came back to lead 44-43 at 11:41. The rally was aided by eight Aggie turnovers.
Down the stretch, UCD once had a five-point lead, but it evaporated completely when an Alex Sanchez basket tied the game at 60-60 with 33 seconds left.
Gross called timeout and drew up the Big Shot for Harris.
“Anytime she puts the ball up, I think it’s going in — she’s that good of a shooter,” Gross said of her Iowa State transfer. “She puts the time into her game to be that good of a shooter. If she were 0-for-12 and that shot were on the line, it would still go into her hands. That’s how much confidence we have in her.
“She showed she’s got some ice in those veins. But its a tribute to everybody else. We drew up that play real quick, we executed it well. The pass (and) the screen.”
That “pass,” incidentally, came from the newly reconstituted Marfone.
Finally back from a right-foot arch injury, Marfone says she’s 100 percent:
“I’ve been so excited to get back. I’ve been working super hard. It was awesome to be back out there with the team.”
Marfone, who was celebrating her 20th birthday, finished with seven points, five rebounds, two assists and three steals in 24 minutes of play.
The Aggies were led by Ol’ Reliable Fipps — 18 points, 10 rebounds, four steals.
Guard Raven Benton and forward Lauren Spargo each scored 10 for Long Beach and reigning Big West Player of the Week Anna Kim managed nine. Sawyer (three), Sanchez (four) and Benton (three) combined for 10 of the 49ers’ 14 steals.
UCD, the conference’s best-shooting team, hit 44.2 percent from the floor (over 56 percent in the first half). Long Beach was held to 35.6 percent — including 3-point misses by Spargo and Benton in the game’s final six seconds.
Notes: The Aggies will be at UC Riverside (7 p.m.) on Thursday and Cal State Fullerton at 6 p.m. Saturday. UCD travels to Hawaii on Jan. 23 before returning home for Cal Poly (Jan. 30) and UC Santa Barbara (Feb. 1). … Fipps needs just 72 points to become the 16th Aggie with 1,000 for her career. By averaging 17 points per game the rest of the way, the Mariposa junior would jump into the top 10 of all-time UCD scorers. She could finish as high as No. 7 — easing past folks like a former Aggie named Jennifer Gross (tied for No. 8 with 1,143 points). … Harris is averaging 14.7 ppg in her past four outings. Through 15 games, her 44 treys are a Big West best. On the game-winning shot, Fipps got tangled up under the basket and went down in a heap. She limped off the court and wasn’t involved in Long Beach’s two late 3-point tries. After Fipps saw trainer Lisa Varnum, Gross said it was a “tweak … Sydnee has a lot of tweaks.” … In other Big West action on Saturday, Cal Poly topped visiting UC Santa Barbara, 88-70, to improve to 2-0 in league play and UC Irvine hosted UC Riverside and won, 90-78.
— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-320-4456.