Riverside, Calif. - The Golden Eagles women's basketball finished off the regular season, with a 60-46 win over UC Merced tonight at the Alumni Pavilion. It was also senior night for the Golden Eagles, who honored five members of the roster (Natalia Hawthorne, Joirdan Jones, Victoria Lowe, Shelby Madigan, and Brittani Walker) who played in their final home game for La Sierra.
But the Bobcats jumped out to the early lead looking to play spoiler. The Golden Eagles found themselves in an early 11-0 deficit, as they didn't score a point until the 12:48 mark of the first half. La Sierra didn't help themselves, by missing many open looks right at the basket.
After settling into the game, the Golden Eagles were able to put together a 10-0 run, cutting the lead to 17-16, on a basket by Joirdan Jones.
Minutes later, a 3-point basket by Natalia Hawthorne gave the Golden Eagles their first lead of the night, 21-19, with 3:56 remaining in the half.
Merced regained the lead by the halftime buzzer, 28-24, on a Shelby Howard 3-point shot of her own.
In the opening moments of the second half, the Golden Eagles wasted no time cutting into the lead as Hawthorne connected on another 3-point shot. But the Bobcats weren't going to go easy, as they scored four quick points to push their lead back up to five points, 32-27.
Over the next nine and a half minutes, La Sierra's defense controlled the game, keeping the Bobcats scoreless and turning a five-point deficit into a commanding 12-point lead, 44-32.
Merced was able to cut the lead to eight points on a couple of occasions but that would be as close as they would get the rest of the evening. The Golden Eagles eventually pushed their lead to 60-44, their largest of the night, before settling for the 60-48 victory.
After a forgettable shooting performance in the first half (22 percent) the Golden Eagles shot 45 percent in the second half on 10-of-22 shooting.
Natalia Hawthorne led the team in scoring with 21 points, five rebounds, and three steals. Hawthorne shot 7-of-15 from the field, including 4-of-7 from the 3-point line.
Joirdan Jones added 12 points, while Brittani Walker tallied 11 points, seven rebounds, two assists and two steals.
Victoria Lowe finished with a game-high 14 rebounds to go along with five points and four steals. And Shelby Madigan had nine points and nine rebounds along with a game high four assists.
The women's basketball team finishes the regular season with a Cal Pac record of 8-4 (14-14 overall). Prior to the game, the Golden Eagles already knew they would finish no lower than the No. 3 seed and face William Jessup University in a semifinal game on March 1.
With their win tonight, the Golden Eagles clinched the No. 2 seed by virtue of a head-to-head tiebreaker. With a win over CSU Maritime on Saturday night, William Jessup will tie La Sierra with an 8-4 conference record. The Golden Eagles and Warriors split their season series, defeating the Warriors 56-44 and losing to the Warriors 80-69. Since the two teams split their season series, the Golden Eagles win the second part of the tiebreaker having defeated Simpson (seed No. 4) twice. William Jessup split their season series with Simpson.
La Sierra will have just over a couple weeks to prepare for their first playoff game in school history. The Golden Eagles will play William Jessup on a neutral court. The Cal Pac Conference Tournament will be played at Menlo College, with the semifinal match-ups on March 1, followed by the championship game on March 3.