Fourth quarter surge leads Panthers over Caltech

Julia Strand drives to the basket.
Julia Strand (photo by Larry Newman)

ORANGE, Calif. – Freshman Julia Strand scored 18 points and junior Lucy Criswell put up a double-double to lead the Chapman University women's basketball team to a 67-59 comeback win over Caltech. The Panthers (14-9, 9-5 SCIAC) surged in the second half to overcome the Beavers.

Strand scored 12 of her 18 points in the second half while Criswell scored half of her 12 points in the fourth quarter to fuel the comeback. Criswell pulled down 11 rebounds in addition to her 12 points and dished out three assists.

Despite battling foul trouble for the majority of the game, senior Jaryn Fajardo hit three free throws down the stretch to put her at 10 points. She has scored in double digits in every game this season. With six rebounds, she also put herself on the brink of another career milestone. She is just one rebound shy of 500 career rebounds, which would put her in the elite company of just three other Panthers to reach the benchmark since 1994.

Grace Peng's buzzer beating three-pointer put the Panthers down 33-27 at halftime. The Panthers shot under 30 percent in the opening 20 minutes and found themselves in a hole. The deficit grew to as much as eight points early in the third quarter but the Pather quickly cut it down to a one possession game.

With 4:43 left in the third, sophomore Larissa Wu knocked down two free throws to bring the Panthers within one. However, Caltech responded with a 6-2 run to push the lead back to five. The Panthers whittled down the deficit again and trailed just 47-46 after junior Marissa Dunn's free throws with less than a minute left.

Chapman took its first lead of the second half on a 15-footer from sophomore Taylor Hextrum. Caltech surged back ahead with a three-point play from Peng to regain the lead and a layup from Madeline Schemel to go up 54-49 with 6:20 to go.

Over the final six minutes, the Panthers locked up the Beavers on defense and finished the game on an 18-5 run. After hitting a free throw, Strand came away with a block on the defensive end that turned into an easy driving layup on the other end to make a two-point game.

Shigeta pulled down a defensive rebound on the next trip down and hit Fajardo streaking up the sideline and in for a layup to tie the game at 54-54. A three from Criswell, another layup for Fajardo and another bucket from Criswell had Chapman up seven, 61-54. Fajardo made a pair of free throws to make it a nine-point lead and then put on a dribbling clinic as Caltech attempted to foul her on the next trip down, avoiding the foul for a few extra seconds off the clock.

The Panthers lead grew to 13 points but Caltech scored five points over the last 30 seconds to make it a single digit win for the Panthers.

Chapman will look to lock up the No. 3 seed in the upcoming SCIAC Tournament over its final two games of the regular season. The Panthers head to Redlands on Saturday and host La Verne for Senior Day on Feb. 16 at 2 p.m.



By Steven Olveda
Sports Information Director

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