The Pacific women’s basketball team fought tooth and nail to make its season extend to a West Coast Conference semifinal match up. To the surprise of few, the Tigers showed the same effort Monday afternoon in Las Vegas. This time, though, they came up 10 points short of keeping their season alive.
No. 7 Pacific fell 66-56 to No. 6 San Diego on Monday at Orleans Arena, ending a run in the WCC tournament that included a 77-73 upset of No. 2 Saint Mary’s in the quarterfinals.
Desire Finnie had her third straight 20-point game for the Tigers (15-17), finishing with 22 points and seven rebounds. Fellow senior GeAnna Luaulu-Summers had 11 points in the loss.
Pacific had won both regular-season games against San Diego before Monday’s meeting, winning 81-68 on the road Jan. 11 and 62-60 at home on Feb. 15. The difference in this case, according to Pacific head coach Bradley Davis, was a few extra jumpers.
“The previous game, we made a few more shots,” Davis said. “That’s as simple as it sounds.”
The Tigers trailed just 29-28 at the half, despite a lopsided rebounding battle that favored San Diego 50-28 by game’s end. The Toreros broke out in the third quarter, however, to a 27-18 tune and a 10-point advantage entering the final quarter.
The Tigers slowly whittled away at the lead in the final 10 minutes of play, at one point getting to within five points of the lead. But San Diego didn’t falter under the late-game pressure, hitting key shots to preserve its lead and book a ticket to the WCC championship against Gonzaga.
Not lost on Davis was the effort of his team, especially senior leaders like Finnie and Luaulu-Summers. Finnie, Davis said, was the offensive force Pacific needed to stay in Monday’s game.
“She was huge. She really was,” Davis said. “She gave us great energy and a great scoring punch. She lifted the confidence of everybody when she was out there.”
Davis said the senior tandem were trying to will this team to the next step. It didn’t happen for the pair, and it will likely leave a lingering taste for a while. Beyond that, though, they helped Pacific earn an experience that the younger Tigers will be able to learn and grow from, Davis said.
As for this year’s team, the third-year head coach said it was an unbelievable group to coach. For a team to face the kind of preseason schedule they did, and to bounce back from an 0-4 start in conference play like they did, to win the most games in Davis’ tenure says something about the character of this squad, Davis said.
“We talk about failures not being failures as long as you learn from them,” Davis said. “This group has always responded. They had a lot of heart and a lot of passion.”