BERKELEY – Saturday’s Senior Day ended in understandable disappointment for the No. 18 Cal women’s basketball team. But someday – maybe even this postseason - this game may be looked upon as pivotal in the timeline of the Bears’ program.
Cal closed out the 2013-14 regular season with a 70-65 loss to Washington at Haas Pavilion. The Bears (21-8, 13-5 Pac-12) played the game without starting point guard and All-American candidate Brittany Boyd, who suffered a mild knee sprain during Thursday’s win over Washington State. Still, Cal was in position to win during the final moments and still received determined contributions from others.
“Nobody in sports likes losing, but I knew we’d find out a lot tonight without Brittany,” Cal coach Lindsay Gottlieb said. “I think most of what we found out was really, really positive. I think you always want Senior Day to be this magical moment where shots are falling and everyone is cheering. But I still think this one will be really memorable because of how others really stepped up. I’m just proud of our effort.”
Guard Afure Jemerigbe, one of Cal’s four seniors who were honored before the game, channeled the emotion of Senior Day into a career-high 24 points to go along with six assists and five rebounds. A 27 percent 3-point shooter entering the day, Jemerigbe was 5-for-11 from beyond the arc as she took advantage of the Huskies’ sagging zone to sink a career-best in made 3-pointers.
“Tremendous,” Gottlieb said. “It’s even more impressive because the kid who orchestrates everything for us wasn’t out there. Foo did everything she could. She has shown for much of the season she is a complete player. I’m proud of that effort and how many plays she made.”
Along with Jemerigbe, seniors Gennifer Brandon, Mikayla Lyles and Avigiel Cohen were recognized in a pregame ceremony.
Junior forward Reshanda Gray recorded her eighth straight double-double, putting up 16 points and matching her career-high with 16 rebounds. Freshman Mercedes Jefflo, starting in place of Boyd, had seven points, seven rebounds and four steals.
“Credit Washington because they won the game,” Gottlieb said. “We made some critical mistakes. Washington is a tough team to play against. But I actually think this is something that’s going to be positive for us going forward.”
The Bears had already sewn up the No. 2 seed in next week’s Pac-12 Tournament entering the day. Cal will still finish alone in second place in the conference standings if Oregon State loses to UCLA on Sunday.
The Bears will open Pac-12 Tourney play Thursday in Seattle against an opponent yet to be determined. Boyd is expected to be fully recovered for the tournament.
This marks the third straight season Cal has finished in the top-two spots in the Pac-12.
“I think there is a lot for us to be really proud of,” Gottlieb said. “Our goal was to win the Pac-12 championship. Once we knew that wasn’t realistic, we really took a lot of pride to fight for second. We’re not satisfied with that, but we have another chance to win a Pac-12 championship in Seattle. That’s important to us.”