The Mt. SAC women's basketball team opened their highly-anticipated season with their annual Linda G. Smith Memorial Tip-Off Tournament on the weekend of Friday, Nov. 3.
After rolling through most of the tournament, the defending California state champion and eight-time defending tournament champion Mounties found themselves in a familiar situation; playing for the tournament championship against Long Beach City College for the third straight year. The Mounties had come away victorious against the Vikings in the previous two seasons, and they came into the championship game on Sunday, Nov. 5, looking to continue that tradition.
The two conference foes started off the game in a tough, physical battle where neither team seemed able to gain much momentum; however, Mt. SAC was able to find themselves in front 18-13 at the end of the first quarter.
The second quarter, though, was a different story. The Mounties went on a run midway through the quarter that saw their lead over the Vikings blow up to a game-high 15 points. Just when it was looking like this game would be a repeat of the previous two years, Long Beach went on a run of their own to come back to within single digits. At the very least, the Vikings had shown they would not go down without a fight as they went into halftime trailing Mt. SAC by a score of 34-26.
There would be yet another shift in momentum as the second half went on; Mt. SAC was holding onto the lead, but Long Beach just wouldn't go away. At the end of the third quarter, the Mounties were clinging onto a 45-39 lead.
For the most part, the fourth quarter was more of the same, with the Mounties holding onto a slimming lead and the Vikings just sort of lingering around. With just under a minute left to go, it seemed as though Mt. SAC was going to pull off the victory for their ninth-straight Tip-Off Tournament championship; however, Long Beach rose to the occasion as they suddenly found themselves within two points with 19 seconds left on the clock. The Vikings drove to the basket with ease and laid it up to tie the game with 9 seconds left. It was a whole new ball game.
Mt. SAC had the ball, all they needed was one bucket to finish off Long Beach or simply let the clock run out to go to overtime, but instead they turned the ball over which lead to another easy Long Beach bucket. In the blink of an eye, the Mounties found themselves down 61-59 with 1.1 seconds left on the clock; it would take a miracle for them to pull this off. The Mounties threw up a half-court prayer that missed badly, and it appeared that Long Beach had won the game; however, it was determined that the Vikings had fouled on the shot, and Mt. SAC was awarded three free throws to end regulation. Dominique McLaughlin came to the line and sunk two of three to send this game to overtime.
Overtime seemed like a repeat of the first quarter as both teams refused to give an inch; one overtime turned into two overtimes.
Mt. Sac's leading scorer Dominique McLaughlin left the game in the second overtime period after an apparent ankle injury. The young Mt. SAC team certainly hopes they haven't lost their returning All-State point guard for any significant amount of time.
After two overtimes the two powerhouses were still deadlocked.
This wouldn't keep up much longer, though. Long Beach immediately jumped on a tired Mt SAC team early in the third overtime period and opened up a sizable lead. The Mounties would not score another goal in the game, and the Vikings would take home the win and the tournament championship, ending Mt. SAC's eight-year run of dominance.
Even in defeat, the Mounties' head coach Brian Crichlow had nothing but praise for his team.
"I learned a lot about my team today," said Crichlow. "We found a couple more players that are willing to make sacrifices for the program, but this is a good learning tool for us. If you can take a team like Long Beach to three overtimes in the third game of the year, that's always something good. We just need to take this game and build on it."
This won't be the last the Mounties see of Long Beach, as they both compete in the same conference.