According to an official on the court, Balthazar told teammates she felt like she was going to faint and then did so. Coaches and a doctor—father of Cal Poly junior guard Caroline Reeves— assessed the situation, then walked her to the sidelines where she briefly lost consciousness.
Balthazar suffered a concussion at the beginning of the season and hit her head earlier in the week, according to Cal Poly head coach Faith Mimnaugh.
“The concussion piece of it is probably something that was actually going on with her,” Mimnaugh said. “Hopefully the doctors at the hospital will be able to look at her and make a better evaluation.”
As Balthazar left Mott Gym on a stretcher, players and coaches from both schools gathered in a prayer circle before heading to the locker rooms.
“It was a really tragic ending, “ senior forward Kristina Santiago said. “You never want to see someone go down like that, whether they’re on your team or not.”
It was a sobering conclusion to an otherwise dominant performance by the Mustangs, who won their eighth straight game. However, until an official ruling is made, the game will not count toward conference standings.
The 49ers were the last squad to beat the Mustangs on Jan. 21 in Long Beach.
Santiago scored a team-high 29 points on 11 of 16 shooting from the field and 7 of 11 from the free throw line. She nearly outscored the entire Long Beach State team in the first half, scoring 20 points before the Mustangs took a 12-point lead into the locker room.
In the abbreviated second half, Cal Poly received a major contribution from freshman guard Ariana Elegado—who started at point guard in place of an injured Jonae Ervin (ankle sprain).
Elegado scored eight points, dished out six assists and got her hands on five rebounds in the final 15 minutes of the game, after scoring four points with just one assist in the first half.
“In the beginning, I had a huge wait on my shoulders, you know? A freshman to step up,” she said. “Jonae and the team kept me in a positive mood and made me feel comfortable.”
Ervin managed to play a low-key 12 minutes in the first half, passing out three assists but taking no shots. Elegado said Ervin should return to the starting lineup on Saturday, but she will be ready to step up when called upon.
Senior guard Ashlee Burns had three steals and shot 4-5 from beyond the arc for 12 points. Sophomore center Molly Schlemer added 8 points and junior forward Kayla Griffin had two.
Cal Poly will host Cal State Nothridge Saturday at 4 p.m. in a showdown that could determine the eventual Big West regular-season champion. Last year, the Mustangs shared a league title with rival UC Santa Barbara, and look to win it outright with three games to play.
The Matadors lost on the road to the Gauchos (12-14, 6-7) on Thursday and fall to 10-4 overall. The Mustangs would move to 10-3 should their lead over the 49ers be upheld by the conference.
Saturday will mark Senior Night for five Cal Poly players, including all-time great Santiago, who broke a school record for career rebounds will also set the career scoring record with 19 more points .
Santiago and her teammates will go for their ninth straight win over the Matadors that beat them in the final minute of a January road game.
“We have the opportunity, it’s in our hands all we’ve gotta do is keep it there,” she said. “We’re all really excited, we’ve just gotta keep playing like we’ve been playing.”