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Historic season ends for Pacific women

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POSTED March 30, 2013 2:17 a.m.

STOCKTON — Junior Gena Johnson reached the 1,000-poiint mark for her career, and Erica McKenzie tied the Big West and Pacific career three-pointer record, but the best season in Pacific women’s basketball history came to an end with a 60-55 overtime loss to Utah in the third round of the WNIT.

Johnson scored a team-high 13 points while McKenzie added 12 points, including a trio of three-pointers. McKenzie tied Selena Ho’s Pacific and Big West record with 271 career treys. Seniors Brianna Johnson and Ashley Wakefield each chipped in eight points while junior Sam Pettinger added five.

Pacific’s season ends with a 27-8 record, a new program mark for win percentage.

The Tigers shattered the previous school record for wins in a season by seven. Three of Pacific’s eight losses on the year came in overtime, with seven of the eight losses being decided by five points are less.

The game marked Pacific’s final women’s basketball contest as members of the Big West. The Tigers will move to the West Coast Conference for 2013-14.

Utah’s Michelle Plouffe scored 26 points and grabbed a career-high 19 rebounds. Her three-pointer with 14 seconds left in regulation forced overtime and she scored six of the Utes’ 12 points in extra time, including Utah’s last three points of the game from the free throw line to seal the victory.

Utah (21-13) advances to the quarterfinal of the WNIT to play Saint Mary’s.

The Tigers forced 22 Utah turnovers — the most committed by the Utes all season — but Utah dictated pace and held Pacific to a season-low 26.4 percent shooting.

Utah open to a 9-0 lead, hitting three of their first four from both the field and the free-throw line. Sam Pettinger and Gena Johnson got to the line and each hit a pair of free throws and Shanice Butler tallied inside as the Tigers cut the gap to 11-6.

Plouffe hit a three-pointer from the top of the key for a 19-8 Utah lead. But Pacific reeled off an 11-0 run to tie the game.

McKenzie answered with a three-pointer of her own and Brianna Johnson knocked down a triple. After forcing a shot-clock violation, Ashley Smith scored on a put-back and McKenzie tied the game with a three.

The Tigers held Utah scoreless for the final 7:07 of the first half, as the game went into halftime tied at 19-19. It was Pacific’s second-best defensive first half of the season, and the Tigers’ lowest point total in a first half this season.

Utah connected on five of their first seven field goals, but Pacific held the Utes to one for their next 10 and forced 13 first-half turnovers. However, Pacific connected on just six-of-30 from the field in the first half.

Gena Johnson hit a three-pointer to cap the 14-0 run and give the Tigers their first lead at 22-19. The triple also gave Johnson her 1000th career point.

Utah ended 9:16 drought with lay-up from Wicijowksi and took a 23-22 lead on a lay-up from Plouffe.

Rodriguez added a three-pointer from the corner to give the Tigers the lead, but Wicijowksi tallied inside to tie the game at 25-25.

Pettinger’s three-pointer gave the Tigers’ a four-point lead, 30-26, with 11:16 to go. Following a pair of free throws, Utah knotted the game at 30 on a Plouffe backdoor cut.  The Utes hit four straight free throws for a 34-30 advantage. But Pacific pulled off a 13-3 run by forcing turnovers. First an offensive foul by Plouffe, and then Brianna Johnson’s steal and fastbreak put her on the line and earned Plouffe her fourth foul.

Johnson’s free throws gave the Tigers a 36-34 lead with 8:03 to go, and after a defensive stand, Wakefield’s pull-up jumper gave the Tigers a four-point edge. Rachel Messer scored for the Utes, but Gena Johnson scored inside, and Brianna Johnson finished an and-one for a 43-37 lead with 6:01 remaining.

The Utes scored the next six points, with four free throws and a Wicijowksi lay-up. But Gena Johnson hit a mid-range jumper for a 45-43 lead with 3:18 to go. Wakefield took it to the rack and finished while being fouled as the Tigers led by four, 47-43.

Wicijowksi scored on a put-back and Utah made a stop on defense, but Plouffe’s three-point attempt rolled off the rim, and McKenzie grabbed the rebound. McKenzie hit one-of-two, and Plouffe drained a three from the wing to tie the game with 12 seconds remaining.

Rodriguez missed a three for the win, and the game moved to overtime.

McKenzie opened the overtime with a three-pointer, but Wicijowksi hit a pair of free throws. Wakefield pushed her way through the paint for a bucket, but Plouffe struck again from deep to tie the game at 53-53. Wicijowksi and Kenyon traded inside baskets, and Wicijowksi backed down a defender for a go-ahead basket with 1:01 to go in overtime.

The Tigers missed on a pair of offensive opportunities, and Plouffe hit a pair from the line for a four-point Utah lead with 16 seconds left. After Pacific missed a pair of free throws, Plouffe hit one of two for the final margin before Iwalani Rodriguez - who gave McKenzie little space all night long - blocked McKenzie’s final three-point attempt.

Senior Kendall Rodriguez finished the game with three points and four rebounds, as she finished her career tied for fifth all-time in school history in scoring, with 1315 points. She also ranks sixth in career rebounding (743), 16th in assists (214), 13th in steals (129), and fifth in three-pointers made (189).

McKenzie’s Pacific career comes to an end after starting a school-record 127 games. In addition to tying the all-time three-pointer record, she ranks ninth in scoring (1250), third in steals (216) and sixth in assists (368).

The duo has turned the Tigers program around, overseeing an increase in win total all four years culminating with this season’s program-record 27 wins. Two-year senior Ashley Wakefield ends up 43rd on the all-time scoring list (571).

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