Shooting for the Top
Dons One Game from Undefeated Season
This has been a winning week for teams from Santa Barbara. They could have a shot at four postseason championships in basketball and soccer Saturday.
UCSB’s women advanced to Friday’s Big West Basketball Tournament semifinals with a 73-50 victory over Long Beach State on Thursday. The Gauchos will face top-seeded UC Davis at noon, as they try to become the first team to reach the championship game from the fifth-seeded position. Meanwhile, UCSB is the No. 1 seed in the men’s tournament and will return to action from a nine-day break in the 6:30 p.m. semifinal, also against UC Davis, the No. 4 men’s seed, at the Anaheim Convention Center. The finals will be Saturday.
In the State Regional Soccer Championships, top-ranked Santa Barbara High defeated Dinuba 3-0 Thursday and will try to cap an undefeated season in the Division II final against Corona del Mar at 1 p.m. Saturday at Warren High in Downey. Dos Pueblos advanced to the Division I final by coming back from a 2-0 deficit late in the game, sending it into overtime and beating San Fernando in a penalty-kick shootout, 3-2. The Chargers, the lowest seeded team, will face No. 3 Paramount at 6 p.m. Saturday. The regional divisions are based on enrollment.
The efforts of the Gaucho women and the Charger soccer team typify the unpredictability implied by the expression “March Madness.”
Long Beach had beaten UCSB twice during the regular season. But since they lost to the 49ers by a 65-62 score on February 13, the Gauchos have won seven consecutive games to improve their record to 15-16. Against UC Davis, they will face another team that took them down twice in league play.
“I feel like it’s the same deal as Long Beach, a chance to get some payback,” said UCSB’s Meagan Williams. A senior guard, Williams is having a sensational tournament. She had 22 points, seven rebounds and five assists against Long Beach after lighting up Pacific for 24 points in an 82-54 victory Wednesday. Williams is making 62 percent of her shots (21 of 34).
Sophomore guard Emilie Johnson scored 18 points against the 49ers, and junior center Mekia Valentine and senior guard Ariana Gnekow each scored 11. Valentine absolutely dominated the boards with 19 rebounds and also blocked five shots.
“We came out with a lot of energy today,” Williams said. “We’re better than we were two weeks ago, and we’re going to be better tomorrow.”
The Gauchos will have to continue their high level of play to compete against UC Davis, which has a 20-9 record. The Aggies will be fresh coming into the game, while UCSB will be competing for the third day in a row, and its big three put in major minutes Thursday – Johnson, 39 minutes; Williams, 38; and Valentine, 36.
UCSB coach Lindsay Gottlieb said she did not want to give Long Beach a ray of hope. The 49ers erased a 13-point deficit in the final four minutes when they beat the Gauchos last month. But this time, UCSB led by 26 with four minutes to play.
An important statistic Friday will be turnovers. UC Davis’s trapping defense forced 27 turnovers in both the Aggies’ victories over UCSB. Against Long Beach, the Gauchos committed a season-low nine turnovers.
Here is a look at the weekend sports schedule:
Friday, March 12
College women’s basketball – Big West Tournament, semifinals, Anaheim Convention Center: UCSB vs. UC Davis, 12 p.m.
High school track and field – Tri-City Relays at Dos Pueblos, 3 p.m.
College baseball – Northern Illinois at UCSB, 2 p.m.
High school softball – Channel Islands at San Marcos, 3:30 p.m.
College men’s basketball – Big West Tournament, semifinals, Anaheim Convention Center: UCSB vs. Cal State Fullerton or UC Davis, 6:30 p.m.
Saturday, March 13
Surfing – Rincon Classic.
Bicycling – Solvang Century Ride, Alisal River Golf Course, 7 a.m.
High school baseball – Santa Ynez at Santa Barbara, 11 a.m.
College baseball – Northern Illinois at UCSB (2), 12 p.m.; Moorpark at SBCC, Pershing Park, 1 p.m.
College basketball – Big West Tournament at Anaheim Convention Center: Women’s final, 1 p.m. Men’s final, 5 p.m.
High school boys soccer – State Championships, Warren High, Downey: Division 2 – Santa Barbara vs. Corona del Mar, 1 p.m. Division 1 – Dos Pueblos vs. Paramount, 6 p.m.
Sunday, March 14
Surfing – Rincon Classic.
College baseball – Northern Illinois at UCSB, 11 a.m.
College women’s water polo – Cal State San Bernardino at UCSB, 2 p.m.; Bucknell at UCSB, 5 p.m.
Monday, March 15
Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table press luncheon, Harry’s Plaza Café, 12 p.m.