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GCU Women’s Club Basketball falls to Bella Vista in AWBL Championship

Women's basketball player shooting free throw
February 19, 2020

By: Julie Laugel/GCU Staff

It was the day teams had been working for all season: the Arizona Women’s Basketball League (AWBL) Playoffs.

The day ended early for GCU Women’s Club Basketball Team 2 after a 66-35 loss to GCU Team 1 in the quarterfinals. GCU Team 1 received a bye in the semifinal round and advanced directly to the championship game to play the reigning champs, Bella Vista College Prep 2, for the second straight year. Despite a rousing 11 point comeback in the fourth quarter, GCU Team 1 fell short, 66-62, giving the Bears their second AWBL title in a row.

Championship: Bella Vista College Prep 2 66, GCU Team 1 62

Adrenaline ran high right out of the gate as the Lopes came out with back-to-back 3 pointers from Jayden Bies and Cassandra Ibarra to take an early lead. The Bears responded quickly, including seven points from Andrea Jovicevic, to take an 18-17 edge after the first quarter.

A slow second quarter dug the Lopes into a 12-point deficit (38-26) at halftime.

“The second quarter was a little tough for us,” said GCU Team 1 Head Coach Kyle Speed. “ I thought we got stagnant on the offensive end, (Bella Vista) picked up their pressure, and we didn’t really stay as aggressive as I would have liked.”

GCU spread the ball around on offense in the third quarter, but struggled to defend Bella Vista’s 6 foot forward Jessie Jin, and headed to the fourth quarter trailing, 50-39.

With the championship title on the line, the Lopes did not go down easily.

GCU fought their way back into the game behind an elevated defensive effort and major offensive contributions from Shasha and Ibarra, whose driving layup while being fouled cut the deficit to a point, 63-62, with 30 seconds remaining.

“I thought that they made sure that every possession counted, and the attention to detail in the fourth quarter was high,” said Speed. “We switched up some things on the offensive end that allowed us to get some really good opportunities to score, went with the press for the whole fourth quarter, and forced them into some mistakes which allowed us some more opportunities to get back in the game.”

GCU’s comeback fell short after Ibarra’s ensuing free throw that would have tied the game rimmed out. The Lopes were forced to foul after that, and the Bears converted their free throws to seal the victory.

“I thought the girls executed the game plan to perfection and played hard,” said Speed. “Hats off to Bella Vista because they made game-winning plays when it mattered to be able to hold us off at the end.”

Ibarra carried the Lopes’ offense with a season-high 20 points, and the team ended the AWBL season with an 8-4 record.

Quarterfinals: GCU Team 1 66, GCU Team 2 35

It was a battle of the Lopes to start the day.

After a tight first quarter, GCU Team 2 struggled to execute shots on the offensive side, scoring only five points in the second quarter, giving GCU Team 1 a 29-17 advantage at halftime.

GCU Team 1 opened the second half on a 10-0 run, including 3 point shots from Cassandra Ibarra and Angela Shasha, and never looked back. Four different Team 1 players scored in double figures, with Shasha leading the way with 14 points.

“Overall, I thought it went pretty well. We did a lot better than we did last time against them,” said GCU Team 2 Head Coach Andrew Zemlicka, “When we work together as a team, we show a lot of promise.”

Victoria Pugh led GCU Team 2 with 12 points, and the team ended the league with a 1-9 AWBL record.

Both GCU Women’s Club Basketball teams continue play in the Region VI NIRSA Championship Series Basketball Tournament Feb. 28- March 1 at GCU’s Canyon Activity Center.

Interested in GCU Club Basketball? Visit the GCU Club Sports page for more information on how you can join the action!