All three of the seniors who handed their parents flowers during the Cal Poly women’s basketball team’s senior night festivity went on to make weighty contributions in their final game at Mott Gym on Saturday.
The fourth honoree, spot-up shooter Rachel Clancy, had her quietest game of the season in the Mustangs’ highest scoring game — a 100-78 win over visiting Cal State Northridge (4-19, 2-9 Big West Conference).
But that didn’t stop her teammates from flattering Clancy with praise.
“She’s an amazing leader,” said junior forward Kristina Santiago, who scored a team-high 24 points and grabbed seven rebounds. “She really gets this team going. Before the games, she’s always giving the pump-up speeches and giving good advice, helping people and is always positive, which is probably the biggest thing with our team.
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“That’s a big part of a team, and she definitely keeps us together.”
Unlike the other seniors, Clancy — a redshirt junior set to graduate with her biology degree this year — has the option of returning for another season of basketball.
Santiago and Cal Poly head coach Faith Mimnaugh both said they’d love to have Clancy return.
In a situation that could develop with a Brett Favre ilk, Clancy said she is undecided about coming back, despite taking part in Senior Day with her mom, Sheila.
“I’ve been thinking about it a lot but trying not to get overwhelmed too much by the highs and lows of the game,” Clancy said. “Like, if I have a great game, trying not to think, ‘Oh, I have to come back for another year.’ Or if I have a bad game, thinking ‘I don’t want to do this for another year.’ I’m trying to let the whole year play out and just think about it come spring break.”
A former transfer from Duquesne who sat out her sophomore season when she joined the Mustangs (16-8, 9-3 Big West), the Ireland native has enjoyed a breakout season.
She’s second on the team in scoring (11.2 points per game), rebounds (5.4 per game) and steals (38) only to Santiago, who leads the conference in all three categories. Clancy also leads the conference in 3-point percentage (.457).
Having averaged fewer than five points per game in her career coming into the season, she said she never really considered staying that extra year in the United States until recently. She’s approached the entire season to this point as if she had senior eligibility.
“Things have changed this year,” Clancy said, “not because we’re so successful, but I’ve become a lot closer with the girls this year, which I was always hoping for when I came to the States originally — that I could find as close friends as I have.
“It took me three years to forge the friendships that I have, which is making things a lot more difficult now as the season is going on.”
One of the striking things about Saturday’s game, which was Cal Poly’s highest point total against a Division I opponent under Mimnaugh and stands as the most since the Mustangs scored 105 in a win over NAIA school Fresno Pacific in 2001, is that Clancy only managed two points, a driving layup to beat the shot clock in the final two minutes of play, though she did have six assists.
Clancy was 1 for 6 from the field and 0 for 2 from 3-point range. Yet, the Mustangs, who tied the NCAA record for consecutive 3-pointers a couple weeks ago, still set a season high for 3s with 14 — one shy of the program record.
Cal Poly finished off a home campaign in which it went undefeated in Big West play for the first time in program history, and that was thanks in large part to the three seniors.
Becky Tratter had a career-high 19 points and tied Santiago for the game high with seven rebounds, and point guard Ashlee Stewart scored 14 points and dished out a game-high seven assists.
A point guard known more for her 2.3 assist-to-turnover ratio, which ranks in the top 15 in Division I, Stewart was 4 for 5 from 3-point range.
Fellow senior Brittany Lange was 4 for 4 from outside and scored 16 points.
“It feels great to score because a lot of the times I pass up shots and I try to create for other players,” Stewart said, “but when Kristina and Becky are getting double-teamed, I gotta knock down something.”