Season Review: Wildcat Women’s Basketball defeated in playoffs, optimistic about future


Javier Hernandez

The Wildcat starters on the bench prior to the game.

Chico State Women’s Basketball fell short during their postseason run, as they lost to the San Marcos Cougars in the semifinal of the California Collegiate Athletic Association tournament with a score of 60-73 on March 4.

Freshman guard Charity Gallegos said this experience is going to be key for a potential deep postseason run for the Wildcats’ next season.

“Competing in the CCAA tournament was a great experience for our team, because we are very young,” Gallegos said. “Going out there and getting a taste of the playoffs will give us more confidence going into the next season.”

The Wildcats started off their season hosting the CCAA/PacWest tournament challenge. They won all three games played in the tournament, but the most memorable part of it was their win against the Dominican Penguins — where junior forward Haley Ison hit a buzzer beater to propel the Wildcats to a 79-77 victory.

The Wildcats participated in the CCAA/GNAC tournament challenge in Monmouth, Oregon to finish off their non-conference play. During the tournament the Wildcats lost both games by an average margin of four points.

Heading into CCAA play, the Wildcats would be 3-2 on the season. They dropped their first two games of conference play. Their first CCAA win was against the Cal Poly Pomona Broncos with a score of 67-63. 

Over the next seven games, four were canceled because of COVID protocols. Coach Brian Fogel said this type of thing ruined some of the continuity his young Wildcat squad was trying to build. 

“COVID is a real thing and is affecting everyone,” Fogel said. “We would get prepared and then the night before I would find out our games would be canceled.”

In midst of this COVID outbreak, the Wildcats hosted the Cal Poly Humboldt Lumberjacks in one of the highest scoring affairs in the CCAA. The Wildcats lost a triple overtime thriller with a score of 96-105. Junior guard Bailey Jones set a CCAA record of most 3-pointers in a game with 10.

From Jan. 20 to Feb. 12 the Wildcats won seven of their eight games, including a five game win streak that propelled them to a CCAA playoff berth. 

But the job was far from over. 

Junior forward Haley Ison said her team made incredible progress throughout the season to help them build some momentum toward the end of the season.

“I’ve seen our team make incredible strides this year, especially once we came down to the end of the regular season,” Ison said. “Our younger girls during the year made big improvements.”

The Wildcats needed to win their last three games to secure a spot in the CCAA playoffs, two of which were against two nationally ranked squads in the San Marcos Cougars and East Bay Pioneers.

The Wildcats would drop the first of their final three games against the Cougars. The Cal State Dominguez Hills Toros came into town on Feb. 24 with a similar goal of qualifying to the CCAA tournament. The game went back and forth, until Gallegos hit a playoff-clinching layup to secure her team a CCAA playoff berth. The Wildcats then went on to lose their final game of the season against the Pioneers.

The CCAA playoffs gave the Toros and Wildcats a rematch only nine days after their thriller at Acker Gym. The rematch was as good as the first game, but behind Gallegos’ 29 points, seven rebounds, six assists and two steals, the Wildcats swept the Toros on the season and advanced to the CCAA seminfinals with a score of 83-81.  

Their season ended on March 4 when they lost to the Cougars with a score of 60-73. Gallegos led the way with 16 points, seven rebounds, five assists and four steals. The Wildcats, after missing a year of action because of COVID, ended with a 14-11 season and a CCAA semifinal appearance. 

Gallegos was stellar during her freshman campaign, she led the team in points, steals and assists. She also made the All-CCAA first team and made the All-CCAA tournament team. Despite the great individual campaign Gallegos is focused on improving during the off season.

“I set some goals for myself, which I reached,” Gallegos said. “I am going to watch film and just keep improving in every aspect of my game.”

A good thing for the Wildcats and Fogel is that all but one player are returning the next season. Guard Mikaela Bismillah is moving on as she makes the decision to either go to grad school or find a job. 

Ison said her team has high hopes for next season but will miss the presence of Bismillah. 

“We will dearly miss our senior, Mikaela Bismillah, next year as she was a big help to us, leading us on the court as one of our point guards,” Ison said.

Fogel has 11 returning players, and all of his five starters will be back on the court together. Fogel said getting the first year together for this group will be huge as they attempt to battle the Cougars and Pioneers for the top of the CCAA.

“Continuity is big for us, being able to work together in the off season is going to be huge for our development,” Fogel said. “We are going to work hard on our defense and rebounding to help us make a deep run next season.”

Javier Hernandez can be reached at [email protected] or @jhm1226 on Twitter