MENLO, CA -- Taylor "Money" Willis hit three critical free throws in the final 11 seconds to send the Slugs past the Menlo College Oaks in a 63-59 thriller on Thursday night. The Slugs earned their first ever win against Menlo with clutch shooting and timely defense. Leah Parrish recorded a double double with 14 points and 11 rebounds. Sarah Mackey blocked 4 shots but changed many more. Geena Giovannetti and Erin Joo aided the Slugs cause with 13 and 10 points.
The Slugs appeared to be in trouble early as the Oaks raced off to an early 5-0. Giovannetti responded with tough jumper and a beautiful reverse layup. Parrish hit her first bucket and the Slugs cut the lead to one with 11 minutes to go. The teams traded runs over the next few minutes. Joo, Mackey and Sara Crane hit tough jumpers. The Slugs trailed 15-14 with 6 minutes left. Crane has been a key contributor off the bench all season and today was no different. When Mackey, Parrish and Giovannetti went to the bench with two fouls, Crane, Lashay Alexander, and Trina Torres made key plays to keep the Slugs close. Alexander hit back to back post moves. Crane swatted away an Oak attempt and Torres converted the loose ball into a basket. The Slugs trailed only 23-22 at the half.
The Oaks' Jolise Limcaco, who finished with a game high 25, got Menlo rolling in the second half with a jumper and a nice assist. Menlo led 27-22 early. Joo and Giovannetti converted four free throws to reduce the lead to 27-26. Mackey came to life with a short jumper and then showed the range of her game by draining a three. Torres followed with a jumper and the Slugs led for the first time 35-34. Parrish then took over making the next seven Santa Cruz points. The Slug held a tenuous 42-38 lead with 10 minutes to go. The Oaks drew closer but a touch driving layup by Crane and a free throw by Parrish kept the Slugs in front. With five minutes to go, the game hung in the balance. The Oaks made a critical mistake when a loose elbow sent Joo sprawling to the floor. The play inspired the Slugs. Joo hit a jumper Parrish swished a 10 footer. Giovannetti rattled home a jumper. Willis matched Giovannetti's shot and the Slugs led 53-46 at the 3:50 mark. Limcaco would not let the Oaks go quietly. She took over on offense and scored Menlo's final 10 points. Menlo decided to send the Slugs to the free throw line in an attempt to get the ball back. The Slugs cooperated and missed 5 straight free throws. Giovannetti's free throw ended the streak. The Slugs held a slim 60-57 lead with 27 seconds to go. With the game slipping away Willis made three key plays. First she blocked a three that would have tied the game. Next she drilled one of two free throws. The Slugs lead 61-57 with 11 second to go. Limcaco cut the lead to two but Willis hit two clutch free throws and it was time to turn out the lights.
The Slugs extended their win streak to nine games and play next against Cal Lutheran in Simi Valley on Saturday.