Women’s team looks to win first WAC Title

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Women’s team looks to win first WAC Title

JJ Reed/The Runner/ CSUB Women’s Basketball Team players Alexxus Gilbert (left) and Jazmine “JJ” Johnson (right) preparing for practice in the Icardo Center.

JJ Reed/The Runner/ CSUB Women’s Basketball Team players Alexxus Gilbert (left) and Jazmine “JJ” Johnson (right) preparing for practice in the Icardo Center.

JJ Reed/The Runner/ CSUB Women’s Basketball Team players Alexxus Gilbert (left) and Jazmine “JJ” Johnson (right) preparing for practice in the Icardo Center.

JJ Reed/The Runner/ CSUB Women’s Basketball Team players Alexxus Gilbert (left) and Jazmine “JJ” Johnson (right) preparing for practice in the Icardo Center.

Chris Burdick, Assistant Sports Editor

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After coming up just short last season of a Western Athletic Conference Tournament title, the CSU Bakersfield Roadrunners Women’s basketball team are looking to take over Vegas in hopes to finally win the conference championship that barely slipped through their fingers just one year ago.

Coming into the WAC tournament, the CSUB Roadrunners are the fifth seed and the team shows promise with their active defensive play. The Roadrunners have been holding teams to an average of only 62 points per game this season and are causing on average 21 turnovers a game.

“We’re looking to make it to the NCAA Tournament for sure,” Senior guard Alexxus Gilbert said. “I think they are more active defensively. We were good on defense last year but this year even with a lot of young players we are very crafty which brings a lot of energy off the bench.”

The Roadrunners have focused all year on bringing energy and setting the tone with their defense on the court, and even set a new school record against Grand Canyon University on March 2 when CSUB held the Lopes to only 37 total points for the entire game.

The Roadrunners have had a bit of a rocky season, however. The Roadrunners ended their regular season with a record of 13-16 and have a conference record of 9-7.

While their struggles this year have been in the inconsistency in scoring on offense, as the team is only averaging 62.3 points per game and struggling to consistently make shots down the stretch. The Roadrunner’s best game on offense came from their 91-37 victory over Westcliff University on Nov. 26.

Since then, the team has struggled and went on a seven game losing streak following that game leading up to the beginning of conference play.

Coach McCall is not rattled by the team’s offensive struggles however and gives a lot of credit to the strong conference play CSUB has faced throughout the year.

“The conference is tough. These coaches do a great job,” CSUB Women’s Basketball Head Coach Greg McCall said. “Each game can be a battle you have to come ready. You can’t have any off nights in this conference.”

“I think we’ve made the right adjustments,” McCall added. “We just want to continue to do the things we talked about in the beginning of the year: energy, effort, and communication. And the result of that is we can go out, win games and be consistent to help things.”

Last year, the Roadrunners came into the WAC tournament as the number two seed with a conference record of 10-4.

Led by now senior guards Alexxus Gilbert and Jazmine “JJ” Johnson, CSUB was able to battle their way to school’s first ever appearance in the WAC Tournament finals. Unfortunately, the Roadrunners fell to the number four seed Seattle University 57-54.

Johnson was chosen for the All-Tournament team for her great defensive play as she averaged just over 2 steals a game.

The team has taken a bit of a slump from last year, finishing fifth in the conference with a record of 9-7. But the team and the seniors on it are still very excited to be in the talks of going back to the finals again this season.

“We’re pretty confident and we are just trying to get everyone on board,” Senior Guard JJ Johnson said. “We want everybody. We are ready for anybody we play, it doesn’t matter who.”

“We rely on [our seniors] heavily,” Coach McCall said. “To me, [Jazmine Johnson] is the best defender in the WAC. Alexxus Gilbert is lighting it up this year and we rely on Malayasia McHenry off the bench and she’s averaging almost a double-double right now.”

Coach McCall commented on his the feelings on this year’s team, calling them the “most fun group” he has ever coached because of their coachability and energy on the court, and their diligence in the classroom.

“We know the amount of energy we have to bring. We’ve experienced it. We know it takes a lot of excitement and energy to bring it and play in that arena.”

“Its win or go home now,” Gilbert said. “In the regular season you play to get better, but in the WAC tournament, your playing to win and win every possession.”

The WAC tournament begins Wednesday March 13 at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas. The Roadrunners first game is against Grand Canyon University with tip-off scheduled for 8:30 p.m.