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Anteaters Finish 49ers, Focus on the Next Step

Women's basketball: UCI reaches Big West title game against UC Santa Barbara by beating Long Beach State, 57-50.


RENO — When it was over, and UC Irvine had finally put an end to Long Beach State's season, there was a lot for the Anteaters to look at in their near future.

The 57-50 victory Thursday night at Lawlor Events Center put the Anteaters in the Big West Conference Tournament championship game for the second time in three seasons. They will play UC Santa Barbara at noon Saturday, and a victory there will put Irvine in the NCAA tournament--an experience a couple of Anteaters can remember.

"We know what the opportunity is in front of us," said forward Sabrina Roberson, one of two players left from the 1994-95 team that lost to Stanford in the first round. "It's the ultimate."

That moment is still one victory away and Santa Barbara lost only one game in conference play this season. Of course, that loss was to the Anteaters.

"I think it's going to take 40 minutes of war to win," Irvine Coach Colleen Matsuhara said.

The Anteaters (16-12) prepped for it well Thursday, beating a team that had beaten them twice this season.

Long Beach also was coming off an upset of Nevada, the conference's Eastern Division champion. The Anteaters were overwhelmed by the 49ers' matchup zone in the first half. Then, trailing, 31-25, Irvine seemed to find the key.

"We just got the ball to Leticia [Oseguera] and let her take it," guard Megan Stafford said.

Oseguera, who also played in the 1994-95 NCAA tournament, finished with 18 points and 14 rebounds. She also had five assists.

Others chipped in.

Char-pei Chen scored nine points, six above her average. She had seven during a 17-4 run that gave Irvine a 42-35 lead with 10 minutes left.

Stafford, who scored 30 Wednesday against New Mexico State, had only six against Long Beach. But she had eight assists and five steals.

Guard Shannon Anders was three of nine from the field, but hit a three-pointer to tie the score, 31-31. A few minutes later, Princess Hatcher's layup off an offensive rebound gave the Anteaters a 35-34 lad. They never trailed again.

UCI had eight offensive rebounds in the second half, after rarely getting a second shot in the first.

"Irvine wanted it more than we did," 49er Coach Dallas Boychuk said. "The second half, they got every loose ball, they dived on the floor."

Long Beach (11-17) did all that in the first half and led, 27-23.

Toby Metoyer dominated inside, scoring six points in the first three minutes, as the 49ers jumped to an 8-2 lead. Metoyer finished wit 16 points and 10 rebounds.

But Long Beach couldn't keep the Anteaters down. Irvine trailed, 25-18, but Oseguera scored five of her nine first-half points in the final three minutes of the half.

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