Cal Poly

Stories of the year, No. 8: Cal Poly women's basketball narrowly misses NCAA Tournament

For the first time since the program jumped to Division I in 1994, the Cal Poly women’s basketball team enjoyed a winning season in 2008-09.

The Mustangs went 21-11, advancing to the Big West Conference Tournament championship game for the first time, where they fell to top-seeded UC Santa Barbara 64-57. Their .656 winning percentage was the best in the 35-year history of the program.

Along the way, senior forward and all-conference second-teamer Megan Harrison, a Cambria native, became the Mustangs’ second-leading all-time scorer, with 1,454 points, and third-leading career rebounder, with 684.

Sophomore forward Kristina Santiago, a Righetti High grad and all-Big West first-team choice, shot 52.6 percent from the floor — 29th-best in the country — en route to a team-high 15.2 points per game. Senior guard Lisa McBride, meanwhile, was an all-conference honorable mention after shooting a Big West-best 45.2 percent from 3-point range.

Cal Poly’s 16.3 assists per game as a team were No. 12 in the nation.

The crowd of 1,737 that filed into Mott Gym on Feb. 14 to see the Mustangs take on UCSB set a program record for home attendance.

The tangible turnaround was a long time coming for then-12th-year Mustangs head coach Faith Mimnaugh, who entered last season with a Cal Poly record of 121-185. From 1999 through 2007, she saw various players succumb to season-ending injuries 15 times.

She was awarded an extra year on her contract, which now runs through 2010-11.

Entering this season, Mimnaugh told The Tribune that the 6-foot-1 Santiago has potential to play in the WNBA. The Mustangs opened the year 6-4, with Santiago averaging a team-leading 18.4 points per game.