By: Patreace Espiritu, CW

The Highlanders hosted their season opener against the Whittier College Poets last Friday, Nov. 5, 2021. Their first game was held at the Student Recreation Center arena where they won 83-42. Parents, students, alumni and supporters alike came out to watch the game and the women’s basketball team’s victory in their exhibition match did not disappoint.

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During the first quarter, the Highlanders were relentless as they scored point after point. The home team had an impressive start, leading 18-2 early in the game. The team had a 47.4% field goal percentage, scoring nine out of the 19 attempts made and 11 rebounds in total. Their team’s offense and defense were impressive as they ended the quarter with 23-6.

As the second quarter began, the Highlanders maintained their energy and eagerness to win. The Poets scored some points, but were unable to break through the Highlanders’ incredible defense. UCR had 14 rebounds and two steals with only five turnovers. They ended the first half of the game with a strong lead of 40-15.

The Highlanders started the third quarter on a good footing. Redshirt sophomore forward Matehya Bryant, scored the first point of the second half for the home team. The Poets attempted to gain some momentum trying to find the net but were met with the Highlanders incredible defense. UCR kept Whitter at bay with an 11-6 run leaving the score 46-26. They finished the third quarter with a 3-point shot by freshman guard Rose Morse and a solid 30-point lead with the score at 58-28.

With an early lead of 33 points by the Highlanders, the final quarter of the game had a tense atmosphere. As the visiting team’s cheers grew louder, their players maintained their tenacity as they scored six points back-to-back. But UCR was unstoppable the whole night and they eventually led by 35 points, putting the score 77-42. With less than two minutes left on the clock, the win was secured but the Highlanders knew that the job was not yet done. As the final buzzer resounded throughout the court, the Highlanders finished strong with a 41-point lead.

Coach Nicole Powell remained calm throughout the game, showing full faith and confidence in her players’ skills to win—as she should be. There were no lead changes throughout the whole game, further cementing the fact that the Highlanders played exceptionally well for their season opener. And while the starters—Bryant, junior guard Jada Holland, senior guard Keilani Cooper, senior forward Daphne Gnago and Morse—set the pace of the game with their amazing performance, the bench was just as tenacious. By the end of the game, the score was in favor of the Highlanders with 38 points coming from the bench.

With a win under their belt from this exhibition game against Whittier College, the Highlanders are looking forward to their next match up. The regular season will begin on Nov. 9, 2021 and they will be playing against the California Baptist Lancers, hoping for another sweet taste of victory.