In what seemed all too familiar for head coach Charity Elliott
and the UC San Diego women's basketball team, Humboldt State had their number once again.
Brittney Taylor scored a game-high 27 points, including two key baskets in the final 90 seconds, to lead the Lumberjacks to a 76-72 come-from-behind victory over the Tritons in the opening round of the NCAA Division II West Regional on Friday afternoon at Seattle Pacific's Royal Brougham Pavilion.
UCSD led by as many as 12 points in the second half, but HSU came roaring back and made several big plays down the stretch to defeat the Tritons for the third time in four games this season and second time in a week.
Humboldt State, the No. 7 seed in the West Region field, advances to face sixth-seeded Chico State in the semifinals on Saturday at 5:00 p.m. Chico upset No. 3 Western Washington 79-68 in an earlier first round matchup.
UCSD, which lost in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2005-06, saw its season come to a close at 25-5, with three of its five losses coming at the hands of the Lumberjacks. All three were by a four-point margin, including last week's CCAA Tournament Semifinal matchup in Arcata, which HSU won 82-78.
"We're obviously very disappointed that we didn't get it done and that our season's over," Elliott said. "We were playing very well early in the second half, but Humboldt just made the plays they needed to to get back in it and we didn't do a very good job of responding. It was a great, great season, but we definitely feel like we should still be playing."
Taylor was outstanding for the Lumberjacks (20-10), scoring 21 of her 27 points in the second half to lead the HSU comeback. She finished 11-of-16 from the field and sank all three of her three-point attempts, the last of which put Humboldt in front by four with a minute and a half remaining.
Taylor led four players in double figures for the Lumberjacks, as Andrea Bobic finished with 16 points, Lisa Petty added 15, and Paige Peterson chipped in with 10.
Annette Ilg was the story for UCSD, scoring 25 points in what will go down as her final game in a Triton uniform. The senior guard went 9-of-16 from the floor, including 3-for-6 from behind the arc, and also tallied eight rebounds, three assists, and a steal.
Ilg has been outstanding in the postseason -- averaging better than 22 points in the last three games -- but she had to carry too much of the offensive load on Friday and the lack of balance cost the Tritons in the end.
After HSU closed to within just one (34-33) at the half, UCSD came out of the locker room in full force to start the second, scoring the first two baskets to take a 38-33 lead.
The Tritons led 42-41 when Chelsea Carlisle scored inside, sparking an 11-0 run over the next 2:10, as UCSD took a 53-41 advantage and looked to be pulling away. Taylor would score the next five points however, hitting her second three from the top of the circle to bring the Lumberjacks to within seven.
Ilg converted a three-point play and Leilani Martin made 1-of-2 at the free throw line to give the Tritons a 59-51 lead with 8:39 remaining, but the Lumberjacks scored six straight to close to with 59-57 with 6:45 left on the clock.
UCSD led 65-62 three minutes later when Taylor snared an offensive rebound and scored and Peterson sank two at the line to give Humboldt its first lead of the second half, 66-65, with two and a half minutes left.
After the Tritons came up dry on their next trip, Taylor sank a huge three from right corner with one second remaining on the shot clock, as the Lumberjacks took a 69-65 lead and assumed control with 1:26 to play.
UCSD pulled within 70-69 on a layup by Martin with 48 seconds remaining, but Taylor scored again on HSU's next posession and Carlisle's potential game-tying three just missed, giving the ball back to the Lumberjacks with 18 ticks left.
HSU went on to sink four free throws to put the game away.
Carlisle tallied 16 points, three rebounds, and five assists for the Tritons, while senior guard Erin Noonan reached double figures in her final game at UCSD, finishing with 10. Tiffany Hunter finished with just seven points, but led all rebounders with 12 boards.
The Lumberjacks shot 41% for the game and dropped 10-of-20 from behind the three-point arc, after sinking 11-of-23 threes in their CCAA Semifinal victory last week.
UCSD finished just 34% from the field and converted just 5-of-18 threes, 28%. The Tritons missed 12 free throws in the game -- finishing 21-of-33 -- which proved to be very costly in a four-point game.