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Long Beach State Beats Cal Poly on Last-Second Game-Winner, 54-52

Long Beach State Beats Cal Poly on Last-Second Game-Winner, 54-52

IRVINE, Calif. — The Cal Poly women's basketball team was eliminated from the Big West Conference Tournament by Long Beach State on Wednesday night, as 49er guard Raven Benton sank a game-winning 18-foot fadeaway with 0.6 seconds left for a 54-52 quarterfinals victory at Bren Events Center.

Dynn Leaupepe took the ensuing inbounds pass from under the basket, but with only the fraction of time remaining, her full-court shot came just as the clock expired. Long Beach State (24-7), the No. 3 seed, advanced to face No. 2 Hawai'i in Friday's semifinals at 2:30 p.m. inside the Honda Center in Anaheim.

The game featured seven lead changes and four ties in the second half alone.

The sixth-seeded Mustangs (15-16) got out to a hot start, as back-to-back jumpers in the post by junior forward Hannah Gilbert and a drive for a layup by senior shooting guard Beth Balbierz accounted for the evening's initial six points, on the way to a 12-4 lead four minutes in. Cal Poly had a 14-2 points-in-the-paint advantage in the first quarter en route to an 18-11 lead.

Long Beach State answered, however, cutting the deficit to 20-18 with 7:25 left in the half, but Balbierz responded with a 3-pointer before Leaupepe hit a jumper to put the lead back at seven.

A 3 by Anna Kim on the last possession of the half pulled the 49ers to within 26-24 at the break.

Long Beach State controlled the start of the third quarter, moving in front for the first time all night thanks to a 17-5 run, taking a 41-31 lead on a Kim layup almost five minutes in.

The 49ers, No. 9 in the nation in forced turnovers (21.5 per game), collected six steals in the third quarter after coming up with just five through the opening half.

Cal Poly steadily chipped away to get back into the game, though, as another Balbierz 3 cut the gap to 43-37 with 2:05 left in the period before a Gilbert layup made it 43-40 by the end of the quarter.

The Mustangs regained the lead on their third possession of the fourth, going up 44-43 on successive layups from Gilbert and sophomore guard Lynn Leaupepe.

Following a 3 by Madison Montgomery, Cal Poly tied it 46-46 on a Balbierz drive down the left side of the lane with 4:51 to go. Lynn Leaupepe then gave the Mustangs the upper hand again, 48-46 on a close-range jumper with 3:39 left.

A pair of Jewelyn Sawyer free throws produced another tie, 48-all, with 2:33 remaining. Benton proceeded to put the 49ers ahead 50-48 on a layup at the 1:49 mark, but Gilbert tied the game yet again on a spin move down low with 49 seconds to play.

Sawyer converted a layup for another lead change coming out of a 49er timeout, but Cal Poly senior point guard Lisa Marie Sanchez sank two free throws for a 52-52 deadlock with 19 seconds remaining, setting the stage for Benton's buzzer-beater from the right side.

Balbierz finished with 17 points. Gilbert added 12 (on a 6-for-6 effort), and Dynn Leaupepe had 11. Lynn Leaupepe grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds.

Cal Poly, which moved on from first-round play with a 72-51 win over CSUN on Tuesday night, will graduate a class of five seniors: Balbierz, Sanchez, fellow guards Paige Brown and Heather Madrigal, and forward Lindsey Wolf.

Photo © 2016 David E. Holmes
• (For more photos of the team in action, click here.)