PASADENA, Calif. (Dec. 29, 2014) – Junior Stephanie Wong (Palos Verdes Estates, Calif. / Palos Verdes Peninsula) recorded her second straight 20-point effort as the Caltech women's basketball team played its best game of the season in a narrow 61-60 loss to the Milwaukee School of Engineering on Monday evening.
The Beavers outshot the Raiders in all three categories (44-38 percent from the field, 38-23 percent beyond the arc and 70-63 percent at the free throw line), but trailed 43-23 on the glass, leading to a 21-shot disadvantage. MSOE improves to 9-1 with the victory while Caltech is now 0-10.
"Of course I'm disappointed in the outcome, but I am in no way disappointed by our team's play and what we accomplished tonight," Head Coach Sandra Marbut said. "Having the game decided by a whistle on a hustle play away from the basket is tough to stomach, but we showed some incredible effort and competitive spirit. We took great shots, beat our opponent in all three shooting categories and created a lot of turnovers with our defensive intensity. We showed great resilience and kept coming back at them throughout the game, forcing them to deal with us until the very last seconds."
Sophomore Kate Lewis (San Antonio, Texas / Ronald Reagan) hit her first two shots to keep the score even at 4-4 to start the game, but MSOE's Holly Denfeld started hot too and fueled an early 10-4 Raiders lead. Caltech tied things right back up at 10-10 five minutes into play, and again at 18-18 following another brief MSOE surge.
The Beavers took the lead on a steal and fast break layup by sophomore Michelle Wong (Palos Verdes Estates, Calif. / Palos Verdes Peninsula) with 10:32 on the clock and immediately locked down on defense to hold MSOE scoreless over a second three-minute stretch. Michelle Wong added to the lead as he forced another steal and went to the free throw line, where she hit one of two to make it a three-point game.
The Raiders took control late in the half, led by eight straight points from Denfeld, to lead 29-23 with 3:56 left to play before halftime. After nearly eight minutes without hitting a shot, the Beavers pulled back within four at 32-28 with 1:38 to go, punctuated by a three-pointer from Stephanie Wong. The Raiders would score on their final possession of the half to take a 34-28 lead into the break.
MSOE increased the margin to nine as the second half got underway, but Caltech began to climb back into the mix. Still trailing by eight at the 13:33 mark, the Beavers scored eight unanswered points to tie the game at 41-41 with 10:57 on the clock.
Caltech finally regained the lead with 8:20 remaining and, after the teams traded baskets over the net four minutes, extended the margin to five at 53-48 with 3:44 left to play. The Beavers held the lead for the next two minutes, but missed free throws threatened to be their undoing as they hit just two of seven trying to retain the lead.
After taking back the lead at 58-57 with 31 seconds left thanks to sophomore Ann Chen (Thousand Oaks, Calif. / Westlake) going 1-for-2 at the charity stripe, MSOE's Shaylan Reardon put her team back on top with just 19 seconds left to play. With Caltech needing someone to take charge on the final possession, Stephanie Wong shouldered the load, driving straight to the basket and drawing the foul for a chance at the double bonus. She coolly nailed both free throws to put Caltech up one with just nine seconds standing between the Beavers and victory. She then appeared to come away with a steal on the other end, but a late whistle would doom the Beavers, as Reardon sank both at the other end with only five seconds remaining and Wong's buzzer-beater attempt fell just short.
The Beavers posted season highs in steals and both shooting and three-point percentage, with Stephanie Wong leading all scorers with 21 points on an efficient 6-of-9 (3-of-5 beyond the arc) shooting. Lewis added 16 points on 6-of-11 shooting, blocked two shots and tied with senior Bridget Connor (Albuquerque, N.M. / Albuquerque Acad.) for the team lead in rebounds, at six apiece while Michelle Wong dished out three assists and came away with a career-high five steals.
"Stephanie did a tremendous job tonight and stepped up when we needed her most," Marbut said. "She was composed and took great shots when the game was on the line. Kate got into foul trouble early but made the most of her minutes and found ways to score as usual. I have to give a ton of credit to our guards off the bench, Michelle and Annie, who came in and made a difference on defense. Their intensity on defense led to seven steals between them and forced MSOE to do things outside their game plan."
Marbut and the Beavers will hit the court again tomorrow on Day Two of the Caltech-CMS Winter Classic, as they host Johns Hopkins University (6-3) at 1:00 p.m.