Before conference play started in January, Cal State Bakersfield women’s basketball coach Greg McCall had his eyes on the top of the Western Athletic Conference. His team had a losing record in non-conference competition, but McCall outlined his plan to win the WAC regular season.
Almost two months later, CSUB is one win away from achieving the goal McCall set forth and as a result, making history.
“They know what’s at stake,” McCall said of his players. “We’re up for the challenge and we put ourselves in this position.”
The situation for CSUB is fairly simple. If the Roadrunners (16-11, 10-3 WAC) beat Grand Canyon (14-13, 8-5) in their final regular season game at home on Saturday at 1 p.m., they’ll win the WAC regular season and get the No. 1 seed for the conference tournament. If they lose, they’ll get the No. 2 seed.
CSUB might have to share the conference title with New Mexico State (16-11, 10-3), but to McCall, that’s a moot point. Shared or not, a regular season championship would be the first Division I regular season conference title for any women’s team at CSUB.
“We made history. We’re champions,” McCall said at the thought of sharing the league title with NMSU. “You can put the ‘co-’ in front. That’s fine with me. As long as it says champion at the end.”
Standing between CSUB and a significant milestone is a Grand Canyon team that has been “up and down” this season, according to McCall. The Roadrunners beat the Antelopes, 69-40, at Grand Canyon on Feb. 17. But GCU beat NMSU, 50-34, one week earlier.
This time around, the game will be on CSUB’s home floor, but the Roadrunners will “probably” be without one of its most important players in Alize’ Lofton, who injured her Achilles tendon on Thursday.
McCall described Lofton as the team’s Draymond Green — referencing the Golden State Warriors player but minus the technical fouls — because of how she plays four different positions for CSUB and does “everything” for the team.
Saturday’s game without Lofton turned into a 64-56 loss to Seattle, CSUB’s first defeat in its last nine games. But the Roadrunners still think they’re in a favorable position.
“Most people on the team have never experienced a championship,” CSUB junior forward Malayasia McHenry said. “This would be their first and we want to do it for McCall so he can get his first ring.”
The No. 1 seed would mean a 6 p.m. game against Chicago State. The No. 2 seed would mean a 2:30 p.m. game against either Texas-Rio Grande Valley or Utah Valley — whichever gets the seventh seed.
But there’s still a full week until the conference tournament starts on March 7 and the potential of history to be made in the meantime.
“We’re gonna let Vegas take care of itself after this game,” McCall said. “We’ll talk about that after this one game. So we’re constantly focused on this one game. … They know it’s an opportunity to make history. It’s an opportunity for them to continue to put women’s basketball on the map for a young program.”