Hustle and hard work made for a sweet Valentine's Day for the Taft College women's basketball team Wednesday night. The Cougars broke open a tight game with a 12-6 run over the last four and a half minutes to earn a 64-56 Central Valley Conference victory over visiting College of the Sequoias. The win gave the Cougars two consecutive conference wins—the first time it's happened—as the team winds down the season. TC (6-20, 3-8 in the CVC) will travel to Merced Saturday night to close out the season. But the team will savor this win.
The players felt they should have beaten COS (9-21, 4-8) in Visalia on Jan. 20, a 62-59 loss. "The girls were really happy to win two games in a row," said head coach Greg McCall. "I wanted to win it badly, but they wanted it more than I did. It was good to see that." For the second game in a row, the Cougars put together a balanced team effort with four players scoring in double figures. They pulled together when their two best rebounders—Carolyn Stribling and Nikki Thompson—got into foul trouble. McCall singled out the efforts of a pair of freshmen from Bakersfield—guard Ashley Anfield and forward Theresa Hubbard. "They both had great games on both ends of the court," McCall said. "You can really see their improvement."
Hubbard and Lexi Garvey led the team with 12 points. Anfield and Marvsharica Quinn both scored 10. Stribling struggled after picking up three early fouls and then her fourth five minutes into the second half. She scored just eight points but dominated the boards with 11 rebounds. "Carolyn didn't play well, but she always plays hard," McCall said. "She contributes in so many ways." With the Cougars nurturing a five-point lead in the waning moments, Stribling hit two free throws with 1:42 left and then drove the lane for a basket that gave TC a nine-point cushion with a minute left.
Taft led almost the entire first half before the Giants closed with a flurry to tie it at 28 at the popcorn break. COS went ahead at 32-30 early in the second half, but Stribling scored in close and Hubbard tossed in a short jumper. The Cougars boosted the lead to nine (50-41) with a 5-0 run before the Giants went on a 9-2 run of their own to pull within two at 52-50. Anfield and Hubbard answered and Stribling turned out the lights. Thompson had 10 boards by the time she fouled out. She also had three steals and blocked two shots. McCall wants his team to finish strong at Merced Saturday night. The Blue Devils won the first meeting, 56-46, in Taft on Jan. 24. "Hopefully, we can come out and play hard, play aggressive."
SEQUOIAS 56—Shuklian 1 0-0 2, Hunter 1 1-2 3, Barresi 6 1-5 13, Daye-Bryant 2 7-9 12, Richard 3 1-1 8, Taylor 6 0-1 12, Alexander 1 1-2 6. Totals: 21 11-20 56.
TAFT COLLEGE 64—Little 2 2-2 6, Anfield 5 0-0 10, Quinn 4 2-2 10, Hubbard 6 0-0 12, Garvey 2 8-12 12, Washington 2 0-0 4, Stribling 3 2-6 8, Thompson 1 0-2 2. Totals: 25 14-24 64.
Halftime: Taft 28, COS 28
3-point goals: COS 3 (Daye-Bryant, Richard, Alexander). Rebounds: Taft 45 (Stribling 11, Thompson 10, Hubbard 8, Quinn 7). Steals: Taft 12 (Little, Quinn, Thompson 3 each). Total fouls: COS 16, Taft 18. Fouled out: Thompson, Richard.