The article below originally appeared in the San Mateo Daily Journal and is being reprinted with permission.
If nothing else, the College of San Mateo women’s basketball team should be used to close games.
After losing their first-round game in overtime at the De Anza tournament last week, and following that with two other games decided by four points or less, it was only appropriate that the Bulldogs would need overtime to beat visiting Ohlone-Fremont 65-60 in the Coast Conference opener for both squads.
“It was a tough game. We didn’t shoot very well,” said CSM coach Michelle Warner. “This is our fifth game in a row decided by [five] points or less. We’re kind of used to these close games.”
It might not have been that close had Warner had her full roster available. Due to injuries, illness and a missed practice, the Bulldogs’ best two players — posts Mariah Elzy and Corryne Millet — played limited minutes.
But come crunch time, both were in the game and they were the difference. Elzy finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds. She scored 13 of her 15 in the second half and overtime. Millet, who played only about eight minutes — the last three minutes of regulation and the five-minute overtime period — still managed to score eight points and grab seven boards.
Millet was held out most of the game for missing practice.
“If you’re a starter and you miss practice, you don’t play most of the game,” Warner said, who finally relented in the final minutes of regulation, mainly because, “[Elzy] needed a rest.”
Dominique Bonaparte also had a good game for the Bulldogs in trying to pick up the slack as she finished with 15 points, including three 3-pointers.
It was the Bulldogs’ rebounding that kept them in a game in which they trailed by double digits in the second and third quarters. And while their shots weren’t falling the first three quarters, it was their rebounding — especially their work on the offensive glass — that kept them within striking distance. CSM (1-0 Coast Conference, 8-8 overall) out-rebounded the Renegades 49-32 and of those 49, 23 were offensive boards.
The other key to the Bulldogs’ win was their night at the free-throw line. An area of struggle for CSM throughout the season, the Bulldogs used the charity stripe to stay in the game, converting 18 of 25 attempts.
“Our free-throw shooting is something we’ve wanted to work on,” Warner said.
CSM made more free throws (18) than Ohlone attempted (14).
What killed CSM early on were the lazy and telegraphed passes that Ohlone (0-1, 5-9) picked up throughout the game, especially the first half when Ohlone came up with 10 steals that resulted in numerous fast-break points.
In the second half, CSM did a better job of protecting the basketball and the Bulldogs ramped up their full-court press that resulted in transition baskets and enabled the Bulldogs to get back in the game.
CSM trailed by 12 at halftime, 28-16, but they kept things close in the third quarter, outscoring the Renegades 15-11 to trail by eight, 39-31, going into the fourth period.
After Ohlone’s A’mari Coleman drained a 3-pointer to start the fourth, CSM responded with a 15-0 run, turning a a 42-31 deficit into a 46-42 lead when Elzy scored on the block with 4:59 left in regulation.
Ohlone came back with a 5-0 run of its own for a 47-46 and still led by four, 53-49, with 1:25 to play in the fourth.
Millet and Elzy, however, converted back-to-back buckets with just under a minute remaining to tie the score at 53 and then both teams did their best to gag the game away. First, CSM threw the ball out of bounds for a turnover with 10 seconds remaining.
But the Bulldogs’ defense forced an Ohlone turnover at midcourt, but CSM’s Kendra Croft could not get her layup attempt to fall at the buzzer and the game went into overtime.
That’s when Millet took over. She scored six of her team’s 12 points in the extra period and grabbed five of her seven rebounds.
“In overtime, we needed her scoring and rebounding,” Warner said.
The final 15 minutes were a far cry from the first 20 as the Bulldogs struggled to score points in the opening two quarters. CSM was only 5 of 31 from the field in the first half.
After Bonaparte knocked down a 3 to give CSM an 8-6 lead with 5:17 left in the first quarter, the Bulldogs managed only eight more points over the next 15 minutes, scoring just three points in the second quarter as they were held to 1 for 16 shooting.