The South Puget Sound Community College women’s basketball team needed a victory in its regular season finale, plus a little bit of help, to secure a postseason berth for the first time in six years.
However, every time Clark College’s Taylor Howlett touched the ball in the second half, the Clippers’ chances of prolonging their season became less and less likely.
Howlett scored 26 of her game-high 27 points in the second half, helping the visiting Penguins squash South Puget Sound’s playoff hopes with a 71-63 victory Wednesday.
The Clippers finished the season with an overall record of 10-13 and an 8-8 mark in the Northwest Athletic Conference.
“These girls set the foundation for this program’s future,” SPSCC coach Mike Moore said. “We had 70 practices, and there wasn’t a time they didn’t give it all they had. They played with passion and heart the entire year. That’s the standard here moving forward.”
Despite having one regular season game left on the schedule, Clark College wrapped up the NWAC West Region’s fourth and final playoff spot as they improved their conference record to 9-6.
A Clippers win combined with a Clark loss against Highline on Saturday would have forced a one-game tiebreaker between the schools.
Howlett’s spectacular second half made sure things wouldn’t get that far.
The sophomore guard was nearly a nonfactor on offense in the first half, scoring one point, but she took control in the second half by making three 3-pointers and seemingly scoring at will during stretches.
Behind Howlett’s strong half, the Penguins built an 11-point lead at 42-31 with 161/2 minutes left in the game.
South Puget Sound rallied behind Dramikha Skaar, who scored all of her team-high 17 points in the second half, and Krista Johnson, who madefour 3-pointers and finished with 14 points.
“There’s no quit in this team,” Moore said. “We’ve been down 15, 20 points this season and came back to win. That’s the mentality this group has.”
Skaar capped an 11-2 Clippers run, which cut the SPSCC deficit to 44-42, with a pair of free throws midway through the second half.
The Penguins answered with an 8-0 run, highlighted by back-to-back 3s from Howlett and Caylee Newsom.
The Clippers fought back, trimming Clark’s lead to 54-50 with 5:40 left but would not get any closer as fouls began to pile up.
South Puget Sound saw starting forward Tahnee McCloud, the team’s only 6-foot player, foul out with 51/2 minutes to play. Starting guard Wakeena De La Cruz joined McCloud on the bench three minutes later after being whistled for her fifth foul.
“We had to make adjustments, and that was difficult,” Moore said. “We went to a 3-2 zone. Yesterday was probably the first day we’ve practiced a 3-2 zone all season. I was pleased with how we did for how little we’ve played it.”
Clark led the entire way, opening the game with an 11-2 run and holding a 32-25 lead at halftime.