Gator women hold chance at playoffs after last minute victory

The SF State women’s basketball team is now in contention for a playoff spot after beating Sonoma State Seawolves 49-43 at home on Saturday evening.

The decisive victory leaves the Gators tied with the Seawolves for the eighth spot in the California Collegiate Athletic Association conference playoff race, keeping hope alive with two conference games remaining in the season.

“We knew two weeks ago that this game was going to be the most pivotal game, both the Sonoma coach and I,” said head coach Joaquin Wallace. “We felt that whoever wins this game would be in position to go on.”

It was the paramount scoring effort of sophomore guard Michaela Booker, who led the team with 14 points, that made the difference for the lady Gators with a critical shot late in the second half. Senior center Dominique Hunter also wowed defensively with an impressive 18 rebounds.

The onset of the game was slow for the Gators, who trailed by as many as 11 points in the first half. The team struggled to cope with Sonoma’s pack-line defense, which is geared to aggressively defend close-range shots, but leaves a Gator three-pointer to chance.

“You feel so open that you think ‘Oh, I should shoot the three,’” Hunter said. “But really the key is to move the ball around and get inside, because that’s where they weren’t as strong.”

Adjustments were made and the Gators closed out the first period with an aggressive 12-2 run to minimize the visiting team’s lead to one point.

The two teams fought back and forth in the second half. A Sonoma three-point play with less than seven minutes in the game cut the Gators’ lead to 37-36.

The Gators gained a precarious one-point lead in the final three minutes, with freshman guard Erica Greer and Hunter both contributing at the free throw line.

But the defining moment came down to the final minute, when Booker capitalized off a Sonoma turnover, charging down the court and landing the layup with 46 seconds on the clock.

“Honestly, it was all a haze,” Booker said of her last-second heroics. “I didn’t realize how important that last layup was until I actually made it and saw the clock and thought, ‘Oh wait, we’re about to win!’ I was just concentrating on that play at that time. I really wasn’t really focused on the bigger picture.”

The Gators managed to prevent a Sonoma basket for the remainder of the game, claiming the victory and with it, hopes of competing in the playoffs.

The team faces another worthy opponent, Cal State Stanislaus, at home on Feb. 24.

The last time the Gators faced Cal State Stanislaus, they were unable to cinch the victory, but coach Wallace is optimistic for a better result at home.

“We almost had them up there,” Wallace said. “But we let that one slip away, so hopefully we can close the next game here at home.”