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On a day honoring the Cal Poly women’s basketball seniors Ariana Elegado, Kristen Ale and Taryn Garza, it was those three who shined brightest.
The seniors led Cal Poly (15-13, 10-6 Big West Conference) to an 84-63 victory against UC Santa Barbara (2-27, 2-14).
Elegado, in familiar fashion, finished with 24 points in the final regular season home game of her Cal Poly career.
“I don’t really know how I feel right now,” Elegado said. “It’s sad seeing so many people congratulate you and commend your work now that it’s almost over. But I’m also very happy that we got the win in front of a home crowd who has consistently shown me and my teammates support over the years.”
Elegado led her team in a first-half offensive surge, knocking down five of her team’s eight 3-pointers and assisting on five Cal Poly baskets. Despite the Mustangs eventually going on a 20-0 run, the Gauchos would bring the game within five at the end of the first half.
Elegado, though, would knock down a buzzer-beating 3 to send her team into the locker room with momentum.
“When I hit my first two shots early on, I can usually tell that I’m going to have a good shooting game,” Elegado said. “Today was just one of those games.”
“It seemed that pretty much anything that came off her hands was either an assist or a score,” head coach Faith Mimnaugh said. “She led us for sure with her incredible effort.”
As of late, the Gauchos had been playing their best basketball, recording their first and second wins of the season over the past three games. Though not a high 3-point shooting team, UC Santa Barbara knocked down seven first-half 3s, helping them keep the game close.
The second half belonged to the Mustangs, though, who outscored the Gauchos 36-22. But the biggest difference-maker in the game was the hustle and energy on the boards. Cal Poly out-rebounded the Gauchos 47-22, allowing for numerous second-chance opportunities.
“I’m so proud of all my seniors. Elegado and Ale are always huge for us offensively, but Taryn Garza is just a monster on the boards,” Mimnaugh said. “She’s a blue collar player, and I can always count on her to put in hard work when she is on the floor.”
Looking forward, the Mustangs have secured the No. 3 seed in the Big West Tournament.
“It’s one and done now, so if you don’t come ready to play then you’re packing it up. I think that’s enough incentive for our team,” Mimnaugh said.
Cal Poly’s first game of the tournament is on March 11 at 6 p.m. in Titan Gym at Cal State Fullerton. The Mustangs’ opponent has yet to be determined, but the game can be viewed on ESPN3.
“We’re ready to face anyone in our league,” Elegado said. “I’m confident in our team to make it far in this tournament.”