CSUN Women Win, but Face Toughest Test Next in Pomona

Times Staff Writer

The Cal State Northridge women's basketball team had just won its first playoff game in the program's history, ending 12 years of frustration.

But after the 68-57 victory Saturday night over UC Davis in the first round of the NCAA Division II West Regional, many of the players didn't want to talk about themselves or their historic achievement.

The Northridge players felt it was more appropriate to discuss the psyche of another team--Cal Poly Pomona. That's Cal Poly Pomona, as in defending national champion and the nation's No. 1-ranked team. The same Pomona that has beaten Northridge 21 straight times, dating back to January, 1976.

It's also the Pomona that will play the Lady Matadors in the regional championship game Tuesday night in Pomona.

"I think they're scared to play us," Northridge guard Renee Loch said. "I think they're ours."

Forward Denise Sitton questioned the Broncos' desire to play defense.

"They don't want to guard you because they're scared to foul and get in foul trouble," she said. "I feel a win coming."

From the moment the Lady Matadors learned of their berth in the regional, they have had their sights set on Pomona. There was only one problem, though. Northridge, ranked 14th in the nation, first had to beat Davis.

For much of the first half in the game at Northridge, it appeared as if the Lady Matadors would fail.

Northridge (20-8) committed four turnovers in the first two minutes against the Aggies' press. Davis (17-10) controlled the tempo of the game for the first 13 minutes and led by as many as five, at 22-17.

Loch, however, rallied the Lady Matadors back to a 30-28 lead at halftime. The senior guard had 12 of her 16 points in the first 20 minutes. Loch's first basket marked her 800th career point. She was in eighth place on the career scoring list by game's end, and her two assists gave Loch the school's season mark of 115.

Sitton didn't have a bad night either with 20 points and 10 rebounds. Sitton's short jumper with 18:48 left in the game pushed her into fourth place on the CSUN career scoring list ahead of Northridge Coach Leslie Milke.

But while Loch and Sitton both played solid games, it was Lori Costello who made the difference.

The senior guard, who didn't make it into the starting lineup until the California Collegiate Athletic Assn. postseason tournament, took control of the game in the second half.

Costello, an All-American in track, scored all of her 12 points in the final period, spearheading the Northridge offense as it pulled away to a comfortable margin. Three times she had steals that led to fast-break layups.

"Costello really did a great job against us," Davis Coach Pam Gill said. "We made some costly turnovers, and she beat all of our players down court."

For Costello, who was named the game's most valuable player, it was a last chance to do something before she unlaces her basketball shoes for the last time.

"The way I see it, it's what you do in the end that counts," she said. "But if someone had told me two months ago that this was going to happen, I would have been very skeptical."

Costello is only the latest of several players to lead the Lady Matadors in recent games. That's something that pleases Milke.

"We have a very balanced team," she said. "If someone isn't on, somebody else steps in to pick up the load."

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World