Rewind: Poets finish with most wins since 2009
WHITTIER — The Whittier College women’s basketball team is coming off one of the most successful seasons in program history.
Behind the resurgence is fifth-year coach Roy Dow. The Lady Poets earned their second-ever playoff spot and hosted their first-ever home game.
In addition, senior guard Cali Cubel concluded a four-year career scoring 1,139 points to lead the team, the seventh player to top the 1,000-point mark in school history.
Kourtney Zilbert was the last WC player to top the mark 10 years ago.
Both Cubel and junior guard Teani White were each named to the first team All-SCIAC. The honor was the second consecutive for Cubel and first for White.
“We’ve had success every year I’ve been here,” Dow said. “When I arrived, my first recruit was Cali Cubel. At the end of the four years, we went from, prior to our arrival, from them winning three and four games a year to the next three years approximately around .500 in conference and improved one game (each of the first three years) overall, in terms of wins. Culminating with last years’ season, which we got to a second place finish in SCIAC, and hosted a playoff for the first time in women’s program history, I believe our win total was the second or third highest win total in the history of the program.”
Dow continued: “The success is certainly manifesting itself on the court and also in the classroom. Eight of the14 players that were 3.0, were 3.46 or higher.
“It goes to the recruiting. We’ve just recruited very good players from winning programs all over the West coast. It started with Cali, who was the first recruit that came in with me. She is an elite-level player.”
This past season they were 17-9 overall and 11-5 in conference for second place.
Another big highlight was the nine-game win streak during the season. It started with two non-conference wins and then they reeled off seven consecutive conference wins in a row.
“This year was so much different (than previous years),” White said. “Not just any team can go on a nine-game winning streak.
“Everything kept growing better and working. We loved that feeling and we worked hard to be where we were at.”
In conference, Cubel totaled 198 points (13.2 PPG), 43.3% from the field, 33.3% (3PFG) and 80.7% (FT).
She also contributed 34 rebounds, 31 assists, 20 steals and seven blocks.
“We (team) broke records for the first time ever,” said Cubel, who is hoping to enlist in the Air Force in January. “It was a huge improvement between my freshman and senior year.
“It starts with recruiting and it came down to the bench players.”
Those bench players came through after Cubel was injured late in the season in a game at Occidental.
The Poets defeated Pomona Pitzer (65-45), which finished second in SCIAC in 2018-19.
“We whooped them in that game,” Cubel said. “It was my send off and I was dancing and celebrating.”
Cubel, a Kinesiology major, didn’t play in the final regular season game and struggled with her lingering ankle injury in the playoff game.
On her career at WC, Cubel added, “Ever since my freshman year in high school (Santa Fe Christian), the seniors at my high school were talking about the Whittier community. We all got it.
“It was so warm and you see a lot of the same people every day. Coach Dow came out of nowhere and offered me this great opportunity. He’s a great guy and was there for us. He took care of us. It’s something.”
White, who is a senior this coming season, led the team in scoring (249 points, 15.6 PPG), shot 43.2% FG, 33.9% from beyond the arc and was 80% from the charity stripe.
She brought down 96 rebounds and had team-highs with 39 assists and 29 steals.
“Something that we mention every year was that the culture and team chemistry is there,” White said. “I think we are all excited about next year and it’s nice to get this feeling and have the foundation of winning.”
Also for the Poets, 6-0, junior forward Emily Guerena led the team with 6.7 rebounds per game (4.5 DRB, 2.1 ORB) and added 9.6 PPG and was third in scoring with 193 points.
Sophomore forward Shaeleigh Wright was second on the team with 5.5 rebounds per game and third in minutes per game with 25.5.
Freshman guard Dallas Martinez, in the playoff game, came off the bench and had her biggest scoring-game of the season with 18 points.
They also said:
Coach Roy Dow on Cali Cubel and Teani White: “They are phenomenal. They are first team all-conference and very typical of basketball in general now, especially at the college level. It’s more of a guard-driven game. Those two young ladies were terrific. Cali became an elite-level defender and was able to play both ends.
“Teani has really grown from when she was a high school player and become a complete offensive player, posting people up, take people off the dribble, shoot three’s from deep. They’re very good.”
On the support at WC: “We’re fortunate at Whittier, there is a very unique school spirit and you see it manifested for a lot of our teams. The personality of our girls, of how hard they work, is recognized by other teams and other people on campus. Winning certainly helps. It was easy to draw in crowd support and it does make it fun for the young women. We had a lot of fun with it this year.”
On the new players coming into WC: “We have exceptional players coming in. Amy Navarro, from Rio Hondo (college) and El Rancho (HS), is a very talented player.”
On returning players: “Dallas Martinez, a freshman guard from Hawaii, is going to be another leader for us. Allison Lou (soph. G), from Rosary High, had a (21) point game at one point. Other players have stepped up like that and I think we will make that transition quite well.”
Cali Cubel on her 1,000th point: “I think Lance (Franey, Whittier College Associate Athletic Director) told me that I was coming close. It was cool and everyone was clapping. I hit a free throw.”
On the teams’ growth: “In my freshman year (WC) there just parents at the games and the gym would echo. This year it was the craziest. The fans came late to the men’s game (usually before the women’s game) and so many would show up for us. It (playoff game) was electric, it was chilling. They just knew we were going to win, but didn’t.”
On her parents: “My parents went to every game, except five.”
On her legacy: “I promise you, there will be a small percentage of me left behind in the culture.”
Teani White on the first-ever home playoff game: “The environment was super nice, having all the fans here and feeling the support of the school and families and friends. It was different, but we could get used to it. It was nice to see the support. I think I had four of my professors there. It’s something I’ll never forget.”
On playing at WC: “I love it. It’s a very close nit team, a very small school. You feel like you know everyone here. It’s nice.”
On losing the seniors: “It’s really sad losing your seniors. They’ll be missed, but I think we created a strong foundation on the team and I’m excited for this (upcoming) season and what we can do and am looking forward to it.”
On coach Dow: “He has a common theme in recruiting humble and level-headed players.”
On the bench play: “Our bench play, no matter who was on the court, was an improvement.”
On Cali injured late in the season: “When Cali got injured, we were down. That road game (P-P), we all pulled together and went deep in our bench. A bigger deal was Cali supporting us on the bench and truly excited for us.”
In last week’s sports feature on the men’s and women’s tennis team academic honor, the name of the head coach was misspelled. The correct spelling is Aron Hayes.