Long Beach Women Again Are Best in Big West, 91-77

Times Staff Writer

Cal State Long Beach clinched the Big West Conference women's basketball championship Monday night. Again. They beat Nevada Las Vegas. Again.

A sellout crowd of 2,001 in the University Gym cheered wildly as the 49ers wrapped up the title with a 91-77 victory.

The 49ers (22-4 overall, 15-0 in the Big West) have dominated the conference since they joined it, which has made them few fans among their competitors. Least friendly is UNLV.

"You could say they are our toughest rivalry," Long Beach Coach Joan Bonvicini said.

Some rivals: Long Beach is 16-1 in its series against Las Vegas.

It is the fourth consecutive conference championship for Long Beach. The 49ers have lost only one conference game since joining the conference in 1985.

Las Vegas (20-5, 10-5) allowed the game to get out of control in the first half, when Long Beach led by as many as 28 points. With its fast break fed by Rebel turnovers--they committed 49 in the game--the 49ers turned up the tempo.

"They are like a train," Las Vegas assistant coach Rick Glenn said. "You can't stop 'em."

Traci Waites scored 21 of her 29 points in the first half for Long Beach, making four of six shots from three-point range.

"Traci Waites was on fire," Bonvicini said. "I don't know if I've seen her shoot like that in a long time."

Certainly not the last time Long Beach played UNLV, when Waites severely sprained her right ankle and had to be carried off the floor.

"I'm just blessed that I can still be playing after that injury," Waites said.

The Rebels lead the nation in rebounding and crushed Long Beach in the game at Las Vegas. Tuesday night the roles were reversed as the 49ers outrebounded the Rebels, 49-40.

"It may not have shown up in the stats, by Cheryl Dowell really helped us, especially in the first half," Bonvicini said.

Dowell was assigned to Pauline Jordan, UNLV's leading rebounder with 13.5 per game, who had 6 points and 7 rebounds at halftime.

Long Beach led, 52-24, at the half. The Rebels whittled down the lead as Jordan had 21 points and 8 rebounds in the second half, but Las Vegas could come no closer than the 14-point margin at the end.

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