Women's Basketball : Long Beach Can't Catch Auburn

Times Staff Writer

The Cal State Long Beach women's basketball team tried for a Laker-like comeback Saturday night but settled for a Clipper-like outcome in the championship game of the Dial tournament at Long Beach.

The seventh-ranked 49ers took the 1,829 fans in the University Gym through a roller coaster of emotions but were unable to overcome a 21-point deficit as third-ranked Auburn won, 87-76.

In the consolation game, USC beat Toledo, 96-66.

Long Beach (3-2) allowed Auburn (6-0) to dominate the first half and then attempted a dramatic comeback halfway through the second half.

The 49ers were languishing early in the second half, getting clobbered on the boards and unable to convert in transition. The Tigers outrebounded the 49ers, 48-35.

That was in the first half. Then Penny Toler took over. She scored 14 points in the second half, finishing with 26 points.

She began a scoring rampage with 9:20 left, getting 10 straight 49er points. Toler typically would take the ball up court, charge toward the basket, then pull up and loft a shot from 12 feet.

Toler helped the 49ers to close to within eight points with 6:20 left.

But the 49ers could not catch the more experienced Tigers.

"Our teams have a lot of similarities, the difference is experience," Bonvicini said. "They have been there."

Auburn's All-American center, Vicki Orr, was effective inside. She had 14 points in the first half and 26 in the game.

Long Beach could not counter that. Toler, who, by her own reckoning had not played well Friday night, was pressing in the first half. Toler is a creative guard but she can't be expected to do everything. She tried, however, and her first half shooting (4 of 11) was a reflection of that pressure.

The 49ers had been supremely confident before the game. In fact, one player, Lee, perhaps intoxicated with the 49ers easy handling of Toledo, had Friday night predicted a win.

"They're good, they're good," Lee told reporters Friday night. "But I tell you, I think we're a lot better."

Well, Long Beach was able to stay close at first, within two to four points of Auburn, but the Tigers began a steady climb midway through the first period.

Auburn held a 48-33 lead at the half.

USC's win over Toledo gave Coach Linda Sharp her first win at Long Beach in her 10 years at the school. Sharp was pleased with the win, especially in light of the team's dismal performance Friday night.

The 18th-ranked Trojans (2-3) had a better night shooting and got a better effort from the 11 players who played.

The Trojans were led by Cherie Nelson's 20 points and 12 rebounds. Karon Howell had 16 points and hit on 3 of 4 3-point shots.

Kim Sekulski and Kelly Savage led the Rockets with 15 and 14 points, respectively.

Named to the all-tournament team were: Orr, who was the MVP, Sharon Stewart and Diann McNeil, all of Auburn, Toler and Nelson.

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