One down, three to go.
The Cal women’s basketball team’s quest to return to the Final Four is still on track, as the Bears notched a narrow 64-63 win over Fordham (25-8) on Saturday afternoon at the Ferrell Center in Waco, Texas. After being awarded the No. 7 seed in the Notre Dame region on Selection Monday, No. 24 Cal (22-9) spent the remainder of the week preparing for a well-drilled Fordham squad that had earned its NCAA spot by way of winning the Atlantic-10 tournament.
The Bears, with the win, earned their third straight trip to the second round. Fordham, on the other hand, was making only its second-ever appearance in the NCAA tournament and its first in 20 years.
It was a back-and-forth affair throughout, with eight ties and nine lead changes in the second half alone. But in the first half, it was a tale of Cal’s horrible shooting woes.
The Bears won the tip-off, and quickly jumped out to a 4-0 lead thanks to a pair of jumpers by guard Afure Jemerigbe. But after a 3-pointer by freshman Courtney Range gave the Bears a six-point advantage with just over 14 minutes to play in the first half, Cal went completely cold. Fordham capitalized, exploding on an 18-5 run to take a seven-point lead. Cal’s defense could not get a single stop, and on the offensive end, the shooting was abysmal. Over a seven-minute span, the Bears missed 10 straight shots from the field.
Cal managed to sort out its offensive troubles toward the end of the period, and at halftime, it trailed by only two points.
“Even though my shots weren’t falling, I was still taking good shots,” said guard Brittany Boyd of her first-half performance. “Coach G (Lindsay Gottlieb) and my teammates kept supporting me, and I’m just glad I was able to bounce back in the second half.”
Boyd was the undisputed star of the second period, not the least because of her spectacular game-winning shot with 14 seconds left on the clock.
The junior finished with 22 points, 10 assists, six rebounds and three steals, but it was the basket to seal the victory and send the Bears to the second round that counted the most. With 25 seconds left in regulation and down 63-62, Cal inbounded the ball to Boyd in the backcourt.
With the rock in her hands, the Bay Area native immediately sped up the court and examined the Fordham defense.
After taking a few dribbles at the top of the key, Boyd cut to her left and dashed into the paint toward the basket. She darted right, slashed left and then threw up a jumper on the run. The ball flew from her hands, bounced off the center of the backboard and fell threw the net.
“I just wanted to just keep my composure on that last play,” Boyd said. “I’m trying to lead my team to another Final Four.”
With her team ahead 64-63 and needing only one last stop to seal the win, Boyd helped stop Fordham’s star point guard Erin Rooney from finishing her last-ditch effort. Rooney’s midrange jumper fell well short of the basket as time expired, and the Bears sprinted into each other’s arms to celebrate.
Josh Netter covers women’s basketball. Contact him at [email protected].