Humboldt State Athletics Department:
POMONA, Calif. – Why not us? It’s the question the Humboldt State women’s basketball team asked when they arrived in Pomona Wednesday evening. That question was answered emphatically Saturday night in Kellogg Gym.
Jovanah Arrington sank a game-winning 3-pointer to lead the Lumberjacks to a 76-75 victory over San Diego. HSU clinched its first NCAA Tournament berth since the 2014-15 season.
“Our team stayed resilient the entire time. We knew San Diego would keep punching and fighting,” said HSU Head Coach Michelle Bento-Jackson. “But our girls kept their heads up and continued to fight until the very last second. I am so proud of where we are today from the start of the season it just speaks volumes to where we are as a team.”
The Tritons took an 18-13 behind four 3-point baskets less than seven minutes into the title bout. HSU turned the tables on the top-seeded squad with a 14-0 run to cap the first quarter and give the Jacks a 27-18 lead.
HSU extended its advantage to a game-high 12 points midway through the second quarter, but UC San Diego answered with a 6-0 spurt to close out the half. The North Coast squad clung to a narrow 41-37 edge as they went to the locker room.
The Jacks shot an impressive 48.4 percent from the field in the first half, and Riann Thayer led Green and Gold scorers with nine points.
After capturing momentum before intermission, the Tritons scored the first six points of the third to take their first lead since early in the game. HSU’s offense searched for answers to its offensive problems in the third, but foul trouble proved to be another hurdle. The Jacks connected on just 33.3 percent of their field goals to open the second half.
A flurry of scoring sparked by a Kindall Murie trey with 1:27 left in the third quarter helped HSU trail by two, 57-55, to begin the final 10 minutes of action.
Looking to close out the game in the closing minutes, the Tritons leaned on the CCAA Player of the Year Dalayna Sampton. Sampton helped UC San Diego take a 72-64 lead with 3:17 left on the clock, but HSU wasn’t finished.
The Jacks hit three straight baskets to pull within striking distance, 72-71, with under a minute to go, and the Tritons led 75-73 after Joleen Yang split a pair of free throws opportunities.
Tyra Turner dished out a pass to Arrington for the game-winner with one tick remaining on the scoreboard.
“Tyra did a good job of getting in the paint and drawing defenders,” said Arrington. “I just made sure to slide over to be in her vision. I knew time was running out and I had to get a shot up. I didn’t know how to react because I thought the time was going out, but we still had a second. It was a great moment.”
“This was the moment that was most important to us,” said Tournament MVP Tyra Turner. “This was the championship game, and we knew they got us twice at our home and their home. We carried this game with good composure and character the whole way through.