The article below originally appeared in the SF Examiner and is being reprinted with permission.
A mere 10 games are all that separate the College of San Mateo women’s basketball team from the end of another regular season. And if the Bulldogs hope to crash the playoffs — something they last did in 2011 — every one of those remaining division games is crucial.
“Every single team in our conference is good and anyone can win on any given night,” Bulldogs basketball coach Michelle Warner said. “So you have to be prepared on any given night.”
In opening Coast Conference North play last week, CSM split in its first two-game division road trip, losing Wednesday to City College of San Francisco 69-45 and besting San Jose City 56-51. The split, while boosting San Mateo’s record to 9-7, currently ranks the Bulldogs fourth in the Coast North.
But fourth place isn’t good enough for the postseason.
“If we’re top three, we could probably make the playoffs as an at-large bid,” Warner said, noting that only the two top teams will secure a spot in the NorCal playoffs in late February. “Obviously, we want to win conference, and we know what we need to do. We gotta stop beating ourselves by turning the ball over and giving up offensive rebounds.”
She’s right. The Bulldogs are averaging 21.8 turnovers a game.
Yet, despite some flawed play, Warner sees some benefit.
“We’ve been through a lot of close games this year,” Warner said.
In hosting a tourney in late December, the Bulldogs played a trio of close games, losing the first to Butte in overtime then beating Merritt and Shasta colleges by one-point margins.
“They’re getting a lot of experience in trying to hold on to that composure at the end,” Warner said. “A lot of people are crumbling under that pressure.”
But two players who aren’t crumbling are freshman forward McKenna Hilton and sophomore point guard Amanda Lee.
“She’s just aggressive,” Warner said of Hilton, who leads her team in points scored with 182. “She’s a very competent shooter, which is good. Some of our other shooters hesitate too much.” But Lee seemingly isn’t one that hesitates much, either.
“Amanda is definitely our forward leader,” Warner said of her point guard, who leads the team in steals and assists with 51 and 57, respectively. “She’s all over the place.”
But the push for playoffs may not depend on the Bulldog stars, but rather on those who get the call from the bench.
“Usually the star players cancel each other out,” Warner said. “So the role players … that’s going to tell the tale.”