Here are nine reasons it will be exciting to watch the women’s basketball game between UCSB and Seattle University at 7 p.m., Friday, November 17, at the Thunderdome:
Petula Clark: Several decades before the introduction of the three-point shot, the British singer predicted, “Things’ll be great when you’re downtown.” The Gauchos won their season opener at Northern Arizona (NAU) last week, 96-93, thanks in a large part to a barrage of three-pointers (14 made on 30 attempts for a robust 46.7 percent). Seven different players splashed the net from downtown, led by sophomore Aliceah Hernandez (5-for-7).
Que Sarah Sarah: Sarah Porter made a big-time impact on the Gauchos last year after transferring from Mississippi. The 5′10″ guard shattered records by going 9-for-11 behind the three-point arc in a Big West Tournament victory over UC Riverside. She made only a pair of treys at Northern Arizona, but she dished out seven assists and grabbed five rebounds. Forget your first impression upon seeing Sarah Bates, a first-year player out of Clovis West High. “She doesn’t look long and lanky walking into the gym,” head coach Bonnie Henrickson said, “but she’s got a great basketball IQ. She took charge the first day of practice. I haven’t had a freshman do that.” The 5′9″ guard started her first college game and scored 25 points with five rebounds and five assists at NAU.
Championship fiber: Bates was one of five Division 1 college recruits out of Clovis West, which won the California Open Division girls’ hoop title and was ranked no. 1 in the nation last March. In the state final, Bates scored 11 straight points in the fourth quarter, turning a 30-37 deficit against Archbishop Mitty into a 41-37 lead. Danae Miller, another first-year Gaucho, was an outstanding point guard at Long Beach Poly, which lost to Clovis West in the Southern California regional final. “They beat us in my junior year,” Bates said. “Danae committed to UCSB after I did. I was excited then, and I’m really excited now.”
Backcourt runneth over: Bates, Miller, and Porter all started in the season opener. Other guards who saw at least eight minutes of action were Hernandez, senior Makala Roper, sophomore Tal Sahar (a transfer from Seattle), junior college transfer Akilah Jennings, and CeCe Quintino, who was an all-state point guard at Liberty High in Nevada. Sahar burst out of her redshirt year by leading the Gauchos with 14 points in their exhibition victory over Cal State East Bay. “In practice, we’re all really competitive,” Bates said. “In games, if one of us has a great shooting night, we’re all happy. We all want to win. It’s going to be challenging to guard us.” Drea Toler, a sparkplug last year, is expected to be eligible in December, and junior Coco Miller has been trying to work through an injury.
Inside story: Feeding the ball to 6′4″ Drew Edelman produced UCSB buckets more than 60 percent of the time last year. “It’s not rocket science to be good a foot from the rim,” Henrickson said. “We work on post passing every day.” Edelman, who transferred from USC, came on strong late last season and scored 24 points (11-for-17 from the floor) in last week’s opener. During the summer, Edelman led the U.S. team to the championship of the Maccabi Games, posting a massive double-double (29 points, 19 rebounds) in the final, a 71-61 victory over host Israel. “She brings a lot of skill and want-to,” Henrickson said, “and she’s in the best shape of her life.”
Grace under pressure: UCSB never had a comfortable lead against Northern Arizona. In NCAA women’s basketball, teams are allowed to inbound the ball in the front court during the last minute after an opponent’s basket. The Lumberjacks took advantage of the rule to score quickly, paring a six-point deficit down to two. Bates helped the Gauchos hold on by sinking five free throws down the stretch. “It was good for us to learn to play in that situation,” Henrickson said. She added that UCSB’s depth paid off: “We had fresher legs.”
Standing firm: The Gaucho women created a stir last year during the playing of the national anthem. Most of the players took a knee in a demonstration for social justice, and some onlookers interpreted it as a lack of patriotism. Edelman said the issues affecting the country have not gone away, but the Gauchos decided to remain standing this season. “We’re going to lock arms,” she said. “[Kneeling] didn’t affect the way we played last year, but it does take a load off, knowing that we found an option that still has a lot of meaning to it. It still is a powerful message, and people know more about it than they did last year.”
Hunger games: After finishing fourth in the Big West last season, the Gauchos upset the first-place team, UC Davis, in the Big West Tournament semifinals. They lost the championship game by a point to Long Beach State. “We got a bite last year,” Henrickson said. “Now we want a full meal and dessert.”
Predictions: Both the coaches’ and media polls picked the Gauchos to finish third in the conference, behind UC Davis and Cal State Northridge. “I like it,” Edelman said. “When you’re on top, the only way to go is down.” Bates did not soft-pedal her expectations. “We’re going to be really good,” the youngster said. “We need a lot of fans here because we’re going to go to the [NCAA] tournament this year.”
GAME OF THE WEEK
11/17: High School Football: Bishop Diego vs. San Marino
The scoreboard operator will get quite a workout if the two teams keep up the pace they set last week, when they scored a combined 18 touchdowns in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division 6 playoffs. Bishop’s Cardinals (10-1), ranked no. 1 in the division, overran Norte Vista, 63-13, while no. 9 San Marino (8-2) outscored Summit, 62-49. The Cardinals will be counting on their defense to give them the edge over the Titans. Bishop’s John Harris, who has rushed for almost 1,500 yards, sat out last week’s game with a knee injury, but the line paved the way for six rushing TDs by Evan McKeegan, Nick Kislow, and Adrian Soracco. 7pm. La Playa Stadium, S.B. City College, 721 Cliff Dr. $5-$10. Call 967-1266.
SB ATHLETIC ROUND TABLE ATHLETES OF THE WEEK
Manny Nwosu, SBCC football
After rushing for 127 yards on 27 carries in a 14-0 victory at L.A. Valley, the sophomore finished the season with 1,080 yards on the ground, becoming the first Vaquero running back to top 1,000 in 47 years.
Lindsey Ruddins, UCSB volleyball
In the Gaucho women’s final home stand, the sophomore slammed 32 kills in a five-set victory over UC Irvine and 27 kills in a four-set loss to UC Davis. She leads the NCAA in kill average with 5.78 per set.