The #15 seeded Bear Cubs (14-14, 8-6 Big 8) hosted #18 Merritt College (17-11, 3-way tie for First Place in the Bay Valley Conference at 12-4) during the first round of the Nor Cal Play-offs. The Bear Cubs have had poor shooting stretches in previous games, but never any as bad as the way they started tonight's game. If Taylor Graham hadn't scored on a drive to the hoop at the 13:29 mark, they would have missed all of their first 26 shots. When Sarah Arteseros converted a 2-footer on a set play with 5:36 on the clock, the Bear Cubs were behind 11-25, their other 7 points coming on five free throws by Vai Thompson and two by Jenna Dunbar. Then Jenna found the range and hit four out of six shots, three of them from beyond the arc, to help the Bear Cubs cut their deficit to 24-33 by the end of the half.
Jenna's 3-pointer started the scoring 26 seconds in the second half. Vai Thompson's putback with 13:47 on the clock moved the Bear Cubs to within two, 34-36. Jenna's fifth 3-pointer of the game tied the score at 38 with 12 minutes to play. Taylor Graham's drive 43 seconds later gave the Bear Cubs their first lead 40-38. The visitors tied the score, then Alicia Mehtlan's field goal but the Bear Cubs back on top. Two Merritt free throws tied the game, but Brooke Santander answered with a 3-pointer. Brooke followed with three free throws and a field goal to stretch the lead to 50-45 with 5:14 remaining. The Thunderbirds went on a 5-0 run to tie the game with three minutes to go. Jenna Dunbar came through again with her sixth 3-pointer 19 seconds later. A Merritt player drew a foul 20 seconds after that and went to the line to shoot 1+1. She made both free throws to close the gap to a single point. On the Bear Cubs' next possession Vai Thompson pump faked and banked in a shot over a taller defender. The T-Birds missed their next shot attempt and the Bear Cubs rebounded. They worked for a shot and as Jenna Dunbar was going up for a 3-pointer, she felt her calf cramping up and crumpled to the floor after releasing the ball. The T-Birds grabbed the long rebound and raced down the floor to score a layup with 1:33 remaining, putting them within a single point, 54-55. The Bear Cubs advanced the ball against pressure and put up a shot that missed, but Vai Thompson grabbed the rebound and banked in the followup for a 57-54 advantage with 1:09 on the clock. Both coaches called two timeouts each during the final 45 seconds of the game. Both defenses responded by getting stops and coming away with steals, so neither team scored. The 57-54 comeback victory advances the Bear Cubs to the second round where they have to travel to Hayward to face #2 seeded Chabot College (26-3, Champions of Coast-North Conference at 11-1).
After a horrendous 1 for 26 start, the Bear Cubs finished the first half by making 6 out of 15 shots for a total of 7 out of 41 (17%). In the second half they made 12 out of 35 shots (29%), which was still below their season average of 33%.
Jenna Dunbar posted her sixth double-double of the season with 24 points and 11 rebounds. Vai Thompson, who scored her team's first five points on 5 out of 6 free throws, nearly had a double-double with 11 points and 8 rebounds. Brooke Santander contributed 9 points, Taylor Graham 6, Alicia Mehtlan 4, Sarah Arteseros 2, and Amber Hart 1. Taylor Graham made 4 steals, passed for 3 assists, and blocked 5 shots by getting her hands on the ball near waist level.