SANTA CRUZ, CA -- Behind 25 points and 18 rebounds from Leah Parrish, UCSC escaped with a nail biting 63-59 win over the Bethesda University Flames. This game was close from start to finish. The lead exchanged hands eight times with no team leading by more the eight points. The Slugs were able to make just a few more key plays down the stretch to seal the victory.
Early the Slugs struggled with the superior size of the Flames front court. Three players topped the 6 foot mark including 6'5' center Emilie Munnandibu. Erin Joo finally got the Slugs rolling with a beautiful back door cut off a pass from Taylor Willis. Back to back baskets by Parrish gave the Slugs their first lead at 6-4 at the 16 minute mark. Over the next several minutes the team traded baskets. The Slugs found a way to get inside the taller flames highlighted by spectacular drives by Sarah Crane, and Parrish. The Slugs opened a five point lead with 10 minutes remaining when Trina Torres swished an outside jumper. The Flames immediately responded with 5-0 run behind the play of Arta Kublacova who led Bethesda with 15 points. The Slugs bounced back with a 5-0 run of their own. Jasmine Dimson converted two free throws and a long 3. The lead would not last long as the Flames outscored the Slugs 10-3 down the stretch to take a 32-30 half time lead. Only a 3 ball from the corner pocket by Geena Giovannetti interrupted the Flames streak.
The second half was an epic struggle. Giovannetti got the Slugs off to a fast start by draining a long 3 as the Slugs took an early 33-32 lead. The Flames responded every time the Slugs seemed poised to break the game open. Jumpers by Parrish and Crane were matched by baskets from Kublacova and Munnandibu. Another jumper by Parrish gave the Slugs a slim 40-39 lead with 12 minutes to go. The next few minutes would be critical to the outcome. The Slug defense stiffened. LaShay Alexander blocked two Flame attempts on the same possession. Willis picked up the loose ball and hit Giovannetti for a layup. Giovannetti stole the ball on the next Flame possession and hit Parrish for another layup. When Parrish converted the three point play, the Slugs led 47-42. The Flames would not be extinguished easily and immediately scored 5 straight points. The teams were tied at 49 with 4 minutes to go. This effort seemed to drain the Flames. Down the stretch, Parrish would assert herself one final time scoring six points and racking up two assists to the ever present Sarah Mackey. The defense would do the rest. The Slugs forced 3 turnovers down the stretch and opened a 7 point lead. The Slugs escaped with a win despite a 25 foot three pointer by the Flames at the buzzer.
The Slugs resume play next Thursday in Southern California against Whittier College.