POSTED: 5:53 p.m. HST, Mar 16, 2013
LAST UPDATED: 5:53 p.m. HST, Mar 16, 2013
ANAHEIM, Calif. >> Cal Poly had to hold on tightly to win its two regular-season matchups against Pacific this season, and those two wins came by a combined four points.
With the first Big West Conference tournament championship and NCAA tournament appearance in program history on the line, the Mustangs didn't let things get that close again.
Ariana Elegado scored a game-high 22 points, and Cal Poly beat Pacific 63-49 on Saturday to claim the tournament crown and punch their ticket to the Big Dance.
"I've been waiting a long time for this opportunity," said Mustangs coach Faith Mimnaugh, who is in her 16th year on the job. "I'm a little bit overwhelmed by it. Sometimes you think it's never going to happen and that your hard work isn't going to pay off, but it always does. I tell my team that all the time. They worked hard, and they believed in a dream."
Cal Poly junior Molly Schlemer, the conference player of the year, was held to only seven points but pulled down a game-high 16 rebounds and was named the tournament MVP. Seniors Caroline Reeves and Nikol Allison each chipped in 10 points.
"Out there we were discussing that it felt like a dream come true," Schlemer said as she wiped away tears. "It's an amazing feeling."
Gena Johnson scored 14 points to lead the Tigers (25-7), who entered on a six-game winning streak and were the top seed in the tournament. Pacific is now 0-5 all-time in Big West tournament championship games and has never been to the NCAA tournament.
The Mustangs, who became the first No. 2 seed to win the tournament since 1996, led 33-21 at halftime and led by at least two possessions for the final 11 minutes of the first half and the entire second half.
Elegado, a sophomore guard, scored 15 of her points in the second half to help hold off a late Pacific charge. She was 5 of 11 from the floor and hit 9 of 10 free throws.
"(Schlemer's) shots weren't going in," Elegado said. "So I thought I maybe should be more aggressive and drive. We all just feed off each other, and I fed off of my teammates and they fed off of me."
The Mustangs were effective getting to the free-throw line and converted once they got there. They had 30 free throw attempts and made 24 of them.
Cal Poly (21-10) also handily won the battle on the boards, outrebounding the Tigers 46-28.
In addition to getting beat on the boards, Pacific had a rough shooting day. The Tigers shot 33 percent from the field, including 24 percent from 3-point range, and made only 5 of 11 free throws.
"We had more field goals and less turnovers (than Cal Poly), we just got beat at the free-throw line," Pacific coach Lynne Roberts said. "We weren't getting to the free-throw line, and we weren't converting on those we did get. ... If you don't shoot well, there's going to be a lot of opportunities for the other team to get rebounds."
In addition to Johnson's 14, Erica McKenzie scored 11 points and Kendall Rodriguez had 10 for the Tigers.
Elegado, McKenzie, Johnson, Long Beach State's Devin Hudson and Cal State Fullerton's Mya Olivier were named to the all-tournament team.