Photo by Bob Paz
PASADENA, Calif. (Jan. 26, 2016) – Senior Stephanie Wong (Palos Verdes Estates, Calif. / Palos Verdes Peninsula) became the Caltech women's basketball program's all-time leading scorer as she nearly led the Beavers to their first SCIAC win of the season against Whittier College on Tuesday night.
Wong tied and surpassed the 1,241-point benchmark set by Lindsay King '08 on a pair of free throws just before the end of the third quarter.
Caltech shot incredibly well for the night, hitting 42 percent from the field, 39 percent on three-pointers and 80 percent from the free throw line while grabbing two more rebounds than Whittier, but committed 36 turnovers that led to a 34-shot advantage for the Poets. After falling behind by eight at the end of the first quarter, the Beavers outscored the visitors in the second to trail by seven at halftime and staged a furious fourth-quarter rally that made it a one-point game before Whittier sealed the victory. The Poets improve to 5-12 overall and 2-6 in the SCIAC at the halfway point in conference play while the Beavers are now 2-15 (0-8).
Getting her first start of the season, freshman Madeline Schemel (Westport, Conn. / Staples) hit the game's opening basket to key an early Beavers run. Following a Whittier three, freshman Elizabeth Eiden (White Plains, N.Y. / Holy Child) regained the lead with a layup and freshman Nika Haleftiras (San Diego, Calif. / Our Lady of Peace) hit a jumper to make it a three-point game. Wong then canned her first trey of the night to extend the margin to six with 4:49 left in the first quarter, but those were the last points Caltech scored in the period as the Poets rattled off 14 unanswered points to turn the tables and lead by eight at the first break.
Wong nailed another triple to begin the second quarter but neither team could get back on the board until three minutes into play, when Whittier's Alina Bonto racked up eight straight points to take the Poets ahead by 13. A late 9-3 flurry from Caltech cut the deficit back to seven at halftime.
The margin stretched back out to as many as 16 at the 6:27 mark and the Poets looked well on their way to victory, but Caltech had plenty of fight left. An 11-6 Beavers run ended the third quarter with the margin still 11, but Caltech held Whittier scoreless over the first two-and-a-half minutes of the fourth quarter while pouring in 10 quick points, including a pair of threes by Wong, to make it a one-point game. Whittier regained some breathing room with a five-point lead, but Caltech pulled back within one with 5:43 on the clock and again at 3:57. Both teams pushed relentlessly over the next two minutes for what they hoped would be the deciding basket, which Whittier would get on a dagger three-pointer with 1:55 remaining in the game.
A Haleftiras layup brought the Beavers back within two and Whittier hit just one of two free throws to keep it a one-possession affair. Caltech turned the ball over on the next possession but got the ball back on a missed three by Whittier with 24 seconds left to play, giving the Beavers the ball with a chance to tie. Wong came free and got off a shot but it clanged off the iron and Caltech was unable to generate a final effort, allowing the Poets to leave with the win.
Wong led all scorers with 18 points on 4-for-11 shooting from beyond the arc. The senior matched Haleftiras for a team-high eight boards while adding two assists, two steals and two blocks. Schemel went 5-for-9 from the field for 10 points to go with five rebounds, three steals, two assists and two blocks. Haleftiras chipped in nine points and junior Kate Lewis (San Antonio, Texas / Ronald Reagan) filled up the box score with five points, seven rebounds, three assists, two steals and a block in 28 minutes of action.
Head Coach Sandra Marbut and the Beavers head to conference-leading Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Colleges (13-4, 8-0) on Saturday, Jan. 30.