The Mustangs advanced to their second consecutive Big West tournament final with a 66-52 victory over the Rainbow Wahine.
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Molly Schlemer must like the Honda Center.
A year removed from her 2013 Big West Conference Tournament MVP honors, the senior center returned to Anaheim on Friday in dominating fashion, racking up 29 points and 11 rebounds in Cal Poly’s 66-52 victory over Hawaii.
The Mustangs advance to the Big West Conference Tournament finals for the second straight year, giving Cal Poly a shot at back-to-back NCAA Tournament berths.
“We’re really excited about being in a championship game again,” head coach Faith Mimnaugh said “It’s the dream of every player I know in the conference. We just feel really fortunate to be in that game.”
Friday’s victory gives Cal Poly a 3-0 record against Hawaii on the season. The Rainbow Wahine got Schlemer into foul trouble in those contests, but couldn’t hold her back on Friday.
“Tonight we had a difficult time fronting her,” Hawaii head coach Laura Beeman said. “We were giving her too much depth in the post. So when you’re 6-foot-5 and as talented as she is, you’re going to knock down lay-ups and that’s what she did.”
Schlemer had plenty of help from her teammates. Senior guard Ariana Elegado posted 20 points, and the team’s eight free throws kept the Mustangs afloat in an otherwise low-scoring first half.
Junior guard Ariana Elegado had 20 points in Cal Poly’s win over Hawaii on Friday afternoon.
Cal Poly mustered a 28.6 shooting percentage in the first frame, and missed all 10 of its 3-pointers. Hawaii sank seven of its 27 field goals in the half.
“Some games are like that too, they start off really slow,” Schlemer said. “Credit to Hawaii’s defense. For the first five minutes we didn’t even score, I think. It took us a little while but we finally did it.”
Cal Poly will get a third crack at No. 1 seed Cal State Northridge in the tournament finals on Saturday. In both regular season victories against Cal Poly, the Matadors notched at least 80 points.
“Obviously they’ve had our number for the last two games,” Mimnaugh said. “They’re very talented, they’ve got great guard play, their center is an excellent shot blocker. We’re going to have to play a great game to beat them.”
According to Schlemer, the Honda Center’s spotlight shines a little brighter during the championship game. The site of UC Davis taking home the title in 2011 is a feeling she doesn’t want to revisit, she said.
Tip-off is set for 1 p.m. on Saturday.
“We’re in the championship game, which is what we wanted,” Mimnaugh said. “It’s going to be a new game tomorrow and there will be one team cutting down the nets.”