Bertsch leads Aggies to victory over Rainbow Wahine.
If you are searching for a college sport to get excited about, try UC Davis women’s basketball. The Aggies provided a season’s worth of excitement in their conference home opener, defeating the Hawai’i Rainbow Wahine, 60-58, in dramatic come from behind fashion.
“To me, this felt like a playoff game,” said Head Coach Jennifer Gross. “It was a playoff atmosphere, the refs were letting us play a little bit, and we brought a playoff type of effort”.
Game time temperature was a frigid 51° F, but the Aggies lit up The Pavilion on Saturday, Jan. 9, shooting 48 percent from the field on the day, and 60 percent in the second half. After making a 6-0 run to end the second quarter, UC Davis entered the locker room at halftime deadlocked with Hawai’i at 27 apiece.
Hawai’i jumped out to an early lead to start the second half, hitting five of six three pointers. With 3:09 left in the third quarter Hawai’i opened up its largest lead of the game on a three ball from sophomore Briana Harris, extending the lead to 11. But UC Davis quickly answered back with their first deep ball of the game at the hands of senior forward Celia Marfone, shifting the momentum in favor of the Ags.
The fourth quarter belonged to the Aggies, which outscored Hawai’i 19-10 to pull off a thrilling 60-58 comeback win over the reigning regular season champions. Marfone hit her second trey of the game to pull UC Davis within four points of the lead, 48-44.
“Hawai’i was able to take away the three for the most part in the first half,” Marfone said. “But in the second half it started to open up and we were able to make the shots.”
UC Davis took its first lead of the game with 4:05 left in the fourth quarter off a jumper by redshirt freshman forward Morgan Bertsch, making the score 52-51. Bertsch had a career game with a personal best 21 points, six rebounds and two assists.
From there, the lead changed four more times before senior forward Alyson Dougherty laid one in to give UC Davis a 56-55 advantage, a lead it never relinquished.
With a minute left in the game, and the Aggies with a three point lead, the referees called a loose ball out of bounds on the Aggies, awarding the ball to Hawai’i. But after a replay review, the call was reversed and the Aggies regained possession. With 33.4 seconds left in the game, Bertsch was fouled hard, visibly shaken up after hitting the court hard on her way down from a layup. Despite the contact, she was able to convert one of two free throws to give the Aggies a comfortable four point lead, making it a two possession game.
On the subsequent possession, Hawai’i drew a foul and converted both free throws to put them within two points of the lead. Hawai’i committed an immediate foul, putting Bertsch back on the line with another chance to ice the game. Bertsch made the first shot but missed the second, giving Hawai’i one final opportunity.
Hawai’i’s Olivia Crawford attempted the game tying three pointer with 1.3 seconds left but was fouled, giving her three free throw shots and a chance to send the game into overtime. After drilling the first shot, Crawford missed the second, in large part due to the distraction provided by the UC Davis Band-Uh! behind the hoop. Crawford again failed to convert her third free throw, allowing time to expire with UC Davis clinging to a 60-58 victory.
The Aggies have high hopes, and for good reason, for the remainder of the season.
“We want a Big West Championship,” Bertsch said. “And I think after the energy we saw today, after this win, I think we’ll be able to carry that throughout the season.”
The Aggies continue conference play on Thursday, Jan. 14 at 5:30 p.m. against UC Irvine in The Pavilion as the first part of a doubleheader, before the UC Davis men’s team hosts CSUN at 7:30 p.m.
Written by George McConnell – firstname.lastname@example.org