MONMOUTH, Ore. – Trailing by two points heading into the final minute of Friday’s season opener, 19th-ranked Cal Poly Pomona closed out the game on a 9-0 run to secure a 62-55 victory against Northwest Nazarene.
Sophomore guard J.J. Judge delivered the go-ahead bucket for the Broncos, sinking a 3-pointer with 25 seconds on the clock to give CPP a 58-55 lead. Although the Broncos shot just 50 percent from the free-throw line on the afternoon, seniors Sarah Semenero and Megan Ford combined to go 4-for-4 in the final 10 seconds to put the game out of reach.
The successful free throws under pressure capped off impressive performances from both Semenero and Ford Friday. Semenero hit four 3-pointers en route to setting a new career high in points with 20, while also adding nine rebounds. Ford recorded her 10th career double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds.
It all amounted to a dramatic first win for CPP, one of four squads competing at the California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA)/Great Northwest Athletic Conference (GNAC) Classic this week. The loss dropped the Crusaders to 2-2 overall in the young 2011-12 season.
The Broncos’ defense got off to a strong start in Friday’s game, as CPP held the Crusaders scoreless through the first five minutes and 51 seconds of action while building up a 9-0 advantage. Semenero started the run by knocking down a 3-pointer, the first basket of the new season, and gave the Broncos the 9-0 margin with a layup at the 14:44 mark.
NNU used an edge on the offensive boards to score its first bucket to stop the CPP spurt and even rallied to bring the lead to 9-6 after a jumper from Megan Hingston with 12:36 remaining in the period. The Broncos didn’t allow the gap to get any closer though in the first half, using a 5-for-10 effort from beyond the arc to keep their distance.
The Crusaders managed to make it a two-possession game after Briaunna King knocked down two free throws with 12 seconds to go in the half but Broncos’ freshman Mian Dingle grabbed an offensive board and sunk a layup with two seconds on the clock for her first career points. That impressive play left the scoreboard at 31-23 in favor of CPP heading into intermission.
Out of the break, NNU improved its shooting and capitalized on a few Bronco turnovers to roll out to a 13-5 run that evened the score at 36-36. A two-minute drought of field goals for both teams was snapped when Alla Dzhidzhiyeshvili dropped in a layup to give the Crusaders their first lead of the afternoon at 38-36.
The momentum shifted back and forth, with CPP’s Rosslyn Beard and J.J. Judge scoring back-to-back buckets to regain a 40-38 advantage for the Broncos around the midway point of the second half. NNU tied the score a number of different times before the teams were deadlocked at 50-50 going into the final four minutes.
The squads traded key buckets, as Beard hit at a 3-pointer to put the Broncos ahead before the Crusaders’ Chelsie Luke fired in a trey of her own to tie the game once again. Hingston put NNU ahead 55-53 heading into the final 60 seconds.
The battle-tested Broncos ended the game by going on a 9-0 run in that final minute though, with the run initiated on a Ford layup to tie the score with 51 seconds to play. Judge nailed a key shot, drilling a 3-pointer with 25 seconds on the clock to bring CPP ahead, 58-55.
Although the Broncos went 9-for-18 from the free-throw line overall Friday, Ford and Semenero each went 2-for-2 on their attempts in the last 10 seconds to give CPP the 62-55 season-opening win.