COOS BAY — For a half, the Southwestern Oregon Community College women stayed with the South Division-leading Lane Titans on Wednesday at Speasl Court.
But Lane’s size was too much to overcome in the second half as the Titans pulled away for an 82-68 win despite 33 points from SWOCC's Jessica Matheson.
“I think we played really well today,” Matheson said. “The last two games we haven’t been rebounding and we showed them we can rebound. I think the last quarter we ran out of gas, and that killed us. But I felt like we stayed with them the whole time.”
SWOCC weathered an early 3-point barrage from Taeli Carrillo to sit just a point back at 18-17 after the first quarter.
It wasn’t anything special Lane did to get Carrillo open shots. She just spotted up on the wing and the Lane point guard, at that time iAmber Lease, would drive hard to her side of the floor, suck in the wing defender and quickly kick to Carrillo, who easily splashed in three first-quarter 3s and had open looks at four more.
But that went away after the first quarter and Lane had to work hard to get its shots. Matheson and Anna Hall and Madison Bell were pesky defenders as the Lakers played small with Lose Fonua on the bench injured. Her sister, Eniketi, fouled out in the second half, which decimated SWOCC’s inside presence.
“We lost to Mout Hood here, but we didn’t have that intensity, that fire, that burn, whatever you want to call it,” Lakers coach Jeff Johnson said. “We didn’t have it (then). But tonight we had it. If we bring that every time, nobody’s gonna want to play us. Especially at home with our crowd.”
It took Matheson a bit to get going offensively, only scoring one first-quarter point, but she got going in the second period. Her relentless driving nature got her to the free throw line 19 times Wednesday night and she made 15 of them.
That aggressiveness helped cut a 10-point Lane lead in the second quarter to just three at halftime. It was a Matheson 3-pointer with 19 seconds left that cut the deficit to just a single possession heading to the locker rooms for the break.
“That’s my gameplan every day,” Matheson said. “I want to get to the free throw line. I just need to make more.”
SWOCC had an early third-quarter 7-0 run that tied Lane at 39, but it was the closest SWOCC ever came to holding a lead in the second half.
Behind Sierra Carter, Lane scored 24 of the game’s next 27 points to take a 53-42 lead that only got bigger. Carter finished with a 25 points and a game-high 14 rebounds and Carrillo ended the game with 21 points.
“I think the biggest girl on the court right now is 5-foot-4, 5-foot-5,” Matheson said. “It makes it pretty hard to box out. We tried boxing out but they would just go over us.”
It wasn’t a lost result for SWOCC. It’s defense was severely limiting Lane’s offense until Carter, Sarah Hall and Meagan Biggs took over in the third and fourth quarters with their size.
But with Matheson scoring at her high rate, it’s encouraging to her and Johnson that SWOCC hung with Lane for as long as it did with a key player unavailable.
“If we do this night in, night out, we’re winning games,” Johnson said.
SWOCC hosts Clark on Saturday at 2 p.m.