Photo: Noelle Davis
PASADENA (Feb. 2, 2019) – The Caltech women's basketball team extended its historic winning streak to four following Saturday's 50-45 victory over Whittier College. The win is the Beavers' first over the Poets in over a decade (2006-07), and Caltech has now beaten the University of St. Katherine, Occidental College, California Lutheran University and Whittier in succession for what has been the program's most remarkable run to date.
"I'm so proud of our team," Head Coach Bridgette Reyes said. "They continue to battle and make big plays down the stretch. We value each win, which is attributed to the daily work ethic and persistence of each player."
Stifling defense from the onset once again keyed the Beavers' victory. Caltech balanced out its least efficient quarter by holding Whittier to nine first-quarter points. As the Beavers' offense began to find its footing in the ensuing quarter, Caltech once again held Whittier to nine points on a collective 22-percent field goal percentage and bought itself some second-half breathing room as a result. The Beavers, led by seniors Nika Haleftiras (San Diego, Calif. / Our Lady of Peace) and Elizabeth Eiden (White Plains, N.Y. / Holy Child), would go on to lead by as many as 10 points thanks to a hot start to the third quarter.
As the Poets began to claw their way back into the game, Haleftiras hit a pair of big shots to cut the visiting team off. The first shot, the last of the senior's four three-pointers, came on a dish from junior guard Grace Peng (San Ramon, Calif. / California) with three minutes to go. As the shot fell through the net, Haleftiras even managed to draw a foul, prompting a round of elation from the home court fans. Leading by two with just 30 seconds to go in regulation, Haleftiras offered up one more big shot, a deep jumper on an Eiden dish to make it a two-possession game and move her team one step closer to the win.
"We practice those types of plays for a reason," Haleftiras said. "Having it work out was just the culmination of all our hard work and determination to show what our team is made of."
Haleftiras finished the game with a team-best 17 points, four rebounds, and four assists while playing the entire game. Backcourt teammate Peng also played for all 40 minutes and put in six points while adding a career-high eight assists. Eiden's defense down the middle, however, would prove to be an x-factor for the Beavers, who outscored their opponents at a 2:1 clip for the second straight game. Eiden's six blocks helped hold the Poets to just 10 points around the basket and ended up being twice the amount of rejections Whittier would finish with. The senior also added to her double-double record with a 10-point, 11 rebound performance and Saturday marks the fifth-straight game Eiden has achieved a double-double. The center now finds herself 51 rebounds away from Lisa Yee's single-season rebounding record.
Caltech's stout defensive game firmly put memories of its previous meeting in Whittier in the rear-view mirror. The defense tightened particularly towards the game's final minute of play as Eiden and the Beavers prevented the Poets from getting the easy looks needed to work themselves back into the game.
"I think we managed to make them take tough, contested shots," Eiden said. "I think that was key for us staying in the game and eventually closing it out."
Reyes and the Beavers will finish their season against three of the SCIAC's top-four teams, beginning at third-place Chapman University on Tuesday, Feb. 5 at 7 p.m.