2016-17 Summary: Strong Finish Propels Redlands Women's Basketball to 10th-Consecutive SCIAC Postseason Tournament Appearance

2016-17 Summary: Strong Finish Propels Redlands Women's Basketball to 10th-Consecutive SCIAC Postseason Tournament Appearance

The University of Redlands women's basketball team battled through a tough first part of the season but, with heart and determination, the Bulldogs put together a strong finish to own a 14-12 overall record and an incredible 11-5 mark in Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) action.  In addition, the Maroon and Gary punched its ticket to the SCIAC Postseason Tournament for the 10th-consecutive time to cap off another strong season under Head Coach Rich Murphy.

Redlands endured a rigorous start to the season by going 1-4 against non-conference opponents through the month of November. Sandwiched between a loss to fourth-ranked University of Texas at Tyler and a tough road trip to the Pacific Northwest, the Bulldogs secured an 86-62 win over Bethesda University that was highlighted by senior guard Jade Cheldelin's (Portland, OR) career-high 24 points.

Redlands jumped back into the win column in early December with a 95-83 showing against the University of Antelope Valley before heading to Honolulu for a 1-1 result at the Hoops In Hawaii Holiday Classic. Against UAV, junior Courtney Chen (La Canada, CA) supplied her second-consecutive 11-point showing as one of 11 Bulldogs in double figures.  While competing in the Aloha State, the team grabbed an early lead over Wisconsin Lutheran University and stayed in front for a 61-51 victory.  Cheldelin impressed with a double-double while scoring 13 points and hauling in 12 rebounds. 

Redlands returned home for its SCIAC, home opener on December 31 against the University of La Verne.  Senior forward Sydney Bennett (Agoura Hills, CA) put together her best game of the season by scoring 12 points and providing some quality looks for two assists. She also hauled in eight rebounds, three of which came on the offensive end. Sophomore guard Brenna Dela Rosa (Waipahu, HI) knocked down a nice three-pointer in the 67-38 thrashing of the Leopards.

After dropping two SCIAC games to kick off the month of January, the Bulldogs went on a 5-1 conference run that included three, crucial, two-point wins.  The streak began with a solid win over Caltech. Following a slight, first-quarter deficit, junior forward Allison Siksnus (Placentia, CA) hit a huge trey-ball to tie up the game at 19-apiece. A few minutes later, Siknsus converted a pair of free-throws for the Bulldogs' two-point lead en route to a career-high 19 points, as Redlands defeated the Beavers by a final score of 58-44.

Soon after, the Bulldogs remained hot against Pomona-Pitzer Colleges, as they edged the Sagehens in a 61-59 decision. Junior forward Reyna Ta'amu (Lakewood, CA) recorded a double-double while scoring a career-high 23 points and pulling in 10 rebounds. Cheldelin matched her double-double with 15 points and 13 rebounds in another strong effort.

The team continued its success by topping the Occidental College Tigers and completing the season sweep of the Caltech Beavers to close out the busy month of January.

After a tough 69-72 home loss to Chapman University, the Maroon and Gray looked to avenge an earlier season loss to the Athenas when the squad headed to Claremont on February 4. Due in part to Redlands' stellar 63.6% shooting from beyond the arc and strong bench support, the Bulldogs battled through 10 ties and 14 lead-changes to edge CMS by a final score of 64-63.  Freshman guard Mariana Ecija (San Diego, CA) finished the back-and-forth game with a career-high 22 points, including a 6-for-7 showing from downtown, to lead an effective bench brigade that scored 36 points.  Junior guard Angela Silver (Scotts Valley, CA) provided key buckets as well, while Ta'amu sunk the game-winning lay-up with three seconds left on the clock.

After completing the season sweep over La Verne, the Bulldogs sat fourth in the conference standings but still had to get past Occidental, which was just one game back.  Prior to tip-off against the Tigers, the Bulldogs celebrated Cheldelin, Bennett, guard Selena Iriarte (Wilmington, CA), and guard Yoemma Esparza (Shafter, CA) for their stellar contributions to the team over their respective careers. The Bulldogs battled through a back-and-forth opening quarter that resulted in a 14-15 deficit, but Redlands made the necessary shooting adjustment to fire off a 50% effort in the second stanza.  This allowed the team to break a 23-all tie and pull away for the 60-55 win.  Junior guard Caitlyn Dixon (Seattle, WA), freshman guard Cassandra Lacey (Victorville, CA), and A. Silver provided quality minutes in the Bulldog triumph.

Redlands faced Cal Lutheran University, Whittier College, and Pomona-Pitzer in the final three conference contests of the regular season. In a close 71-68 victory over the Regals, sophomore guard Mandy Silver (Scotts Valley, CA) made some key buckets early in the game while also dishing out three assists and hauling in seven rebounds. Cheldelin and Ta'amu scored 10 points each in the fourth quarter to help Redlands secure the important win.

Although the Bulldogs suffered a rare overtime loss at Whittier, they finished out the SCIAC slate by downing the Sagehens in a lopsided 75-48 showing. While Cheldelin served as the rebounding magnet with 21 boards, Redlands relied on its talented bench to cap off the solid outing.  Junior forwards Megan Fortenberry (Riverside, CA) and Nicolee Quraishy (Rancho Santa Fe, CA) provided quality minutes for the Maroon and Gray.

With the solid finish to the regular season, the Bulldogs earned the fourth seed in the SCIAC Postseason Tournament for the program's 10th-consecutive appearance.  This pitted Redlands against the No. 1 seed and host of the semifinal game, Claremont-Mudd-Scripps. After a slow start in the first quarter, Redlands put together a more lucrative second stanza by outscoring the Athenas, 18-12. Cheldelin, Bennett, A. Silver, Fortenberry, and Dixon all sunk their shots to initiate the scoring spree and help close the gap to seven points at halftime. However, CMS took charge of the third quarter, which forced the Bulldogs to rally late with a 20-point fourth quarter. Lacey and Cheldelin came up with big three-pointers and a successful and-one play to make the score 40-47. Unfortunately for the visitors, CMS kept Redlands at bay, thus ending the Bulldogs' run with a close 54-62 loss.

Cheldelin and Ta'amu were tabbed First-Team All-Conference selections, as voted upon by the head coaches.  The University of Redlands was one of only two schools to garner a pair of First-Team selections in women's basketball this year.  Cheldelin put together the best shooting season of her career with 240 points for 15 points per game to lead the team and tie for first in the conference.  Ta'amu made her presence known in the paint by amassing 126 total rebounds for an average of 7.9, which landed her third among the SCIAC in both categories. She also led the SCIAC in offensive rebounds with 71, with the next opponent sitting 20 behind her.

While completing a decade of appearances in the SCIAC Postseason Tournament, the Bulldog women's basketball team remained a contender among the upper echelon with dynamic shooting and gritty defense.  Although the loss of their senior class is significant, the Bulldogs hold high expectations for the continued success and leadership of the returning crew in the coming season.