Philip George / Roundup
It wasn’t supposed to end like this.
With 5.9 seconds remaining on the clock, the Pierce College women’s basketball team seemed poised to take their pursuit of a state championship to Ventura College for the regional semifinal round, but Jazmine Matthews and the Citrus College Owls brought their title chase to a screeching halt.
Citrus’ sophomore guard hit the game-winning shot scoop-shot in the waning moments of Wednesday’s regional play-in round to defeat the Brahmas, 78-77.
“Somebody had to win and somebody had to lose,” said Citrus head coach Eric Anderson. “In a game like this, it went back and forth. They had their chances, we had ours. We both missed free-throws in the end and we just happened to have the last possession.”
Each possession proved to be crucial throughout the night, as no more than nine points separated the two sides at any given moment. However, Pierce failed to capitalize on their chances.
“We played a little tight and we had 28 turnovers,” said Pierce head coach Jim Couch. “I don’t think we’ve had 28 turnovers since the beginning of the season. Citrus played a heck of a game but I thought we could have played better.”
But despite the large number of turnovers, Pierce had an opportunity to seal the deal late in the second half. Trailing, 74-76, with 22.9 seconds remaining in the game, the Brahmas put the ball in the hands of freshman guard Tessondra Williams who unloaded from behind the arc for three points.
“I was just thinking ‘score,’ Williams recalled. “The girl laid off me and I was open so I shot a three.”
“Big, big shot,” said Couch. “She sank it. My concern was there was a little too much time because I know their three scorers [Jessica Nieves, Terri Washington and Matthews].”
Couch’s fears materialized as Matthews drove coast-to-coast, muscled through a sea of Pierce defenders and put the dagger right through the Brahmas’ heart, closing the book on their fairy-tale season.
“I knew we needed the shot,” said Matthews. “The ball was in my hands. I didn’t have anybody to pass to. They were trying to double-team me so I had to go and try to draw a foul. If I couldn’t draw the foul, I had to make my shot and it fell.”
Pierce sophomore center Tiara Richardson took one final jump-shot at the buzzer, but to no avail.
And just like that, it was over.
Citrus’ bench burst onto the court in celebration, leaving the Brahmas to retreat to the locker room dejected, disappointed but well aware of what they had accomplished.
“I’m happy that we made it this far,” said a misty-eyed Williams. “Now we know what to expect for next year, what we need to do to get to playoffs – play your game, play as a team and don’t let anything outside bother you.”
But for sophomore guard Bridget Jenkins, there won’t be a next year as Wednesday’s loss signifies the end of her illustrious Brahma career.
“I’m proud of the team and how far we’ve come but we just couldn’t pull it out tonight,” she said. “Hopefully they learn from this experience and go farther.”
As she walked out the doors of the South Gym for final time as a Brahma, Jenkins, the captain and backbone of her team gazed back at the floor she called home for the past two years. Choking back tears, she managed a half-smile.
“Go Brahmas,” she said.