Hornet women’s basketball goes 2-0 in Holiday Beach Classic

Sac State’s winning streak hits 5 with wins over Cal Poly, UTEP


Alexis Hunt

(FILE)Senior guard Kahlaijah Dean looks to evade UC Davis defenders in a 67-45 victory for Sac State on Nov. 22, 2022 at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento,CA. The Hornets are enjoying their first 5-1 start since the 2013-2014 season.

Dylan McNeill

The Sacramento State women’s basketball team spent their Thanksgiving weekend on the road, heading south to San Luis Obispo to take part in the Holiday Beach Classic. The Hornets faced off against a couple of talented teams in Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo and University of Texas El Paso.

Friday: Cal Poly’s comeback no match for sharp-shooting Hornets in 70-62 win

The Hornets wasted no time letting their presence be known on Friday as they doused the Mustangs with three-point shooting. 

Sac State hit their first six attempts from three and made 66.7% of them in total. Second year head coach Mark Campbell had his team running on a full cylinder in the first three quarters, gaining a 56-39 lead entering the fourth quarter. From there, the team sputtered.

“This is one of the best shooting teams in the country and they’ve earned that right,” Campbell said, “It doesn’t shock me when we have games like that because they’re capable.

In the fourth quarter, the Hornets had eight turnovers to 14 points, leaving the door open for Cal Poly to work their way back into the game. Sac State played a discombobulated final frame but, thanks to their hefty lead, it didn’t cost them.

Sac State went cold in the fourth quarter, shooting 20%and not hitting a single three. Albeit they attempted just two in the quarter after shooting 63% through the first three quarters. 

It was a particularly smooth game for senior guard Kahlaijah Dean, who totaled 18 points with four rebounds and four assists, all while her only miss of the game was a free throw with three seconds left in the game.

Four Hornets reached double-digit scoring, Dean led the way with her 18, followed by junior center Isnelle Natabou with 13. Both sophomore forward Katie Peneueta and senior forward Kaylin Randhawa added 10 apiece. 

“I either wait till I see a crack in the opponent’s defense, or I go to create it on my own,” Natabou said. “Because I know my team needs my presence the same way I need theirs.”

Peneueta added three blocks along with her scoring and reserve forward junior Erin Hedman got two more blocks in limited play.

The Mustangs were able to widdle the Hornet lead down to five a few times in the fourth quarter, but never closer than that. After a dominant win over UC Davis on Tuesday and three explosive quarters over Cal Poly, the fourth quarter felt like an inescapable malaise for Sac State until the final buzzer rang.

Despite it all, Sac State moves to 4-1. The Hornet team Campbell took over in 2020-2021 never won a fourth game, going 3-22 on the season. The expectations are different now.

Saturday: Hornets grab 5th win in a row with 63-50 win over UTEP

Just 24 hours removed from their win over Cal Poly, Sac State women’s basketball picked up another win Saturday with a whole new style of victory in a bout against a 5-0 Miner team. 

After shooting the lights out Friday, the Hornets weren’t seeing the same level of success that they’re accustomed to against University Texas El Paso. The Hornets shot a respectable 40% from the field and 25% from three.

“Our team put together 40 good minutes on the defensive end and had great shots all game and missed looks that we want to shoot,” Campbell said. “We’d take those same shots over again.”

Sac State was able to dominate down low, out-rebounding the Miners 41-28 and blocking seven shots. UTEP blocked zero. 

“Izze did an incredible job down low, protecting our basket and rebounding, being a post presence.” Campbell said.

Scoring-wise, the Hornets were led by Natabou. She had 17 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks all while shooting a clean 6-7 from the field. Dean and Peneueta added 14 and 11 respectively, but the duo were a combined 6-25 shooting and 4-20 from three.

“As a team we understand the simple concept of high-level sport that, no matter who you play, victory must be stolen every single time,” Natabou said, “because victory is not loyal to anyone, no matter if they deserve it.”.

Despite it being the second game in a back-to-back, Campbell trimmed the Hornet rotation to just six players: the usual starting five, plus freshman guard Madison Butcher who added 10 points on 4-7 shooting.

“We’re continuing to grow each game after every win,” Butcher said. “Every game we get better and better.”.

In the two games this weekend, the Hornets trailed for a combined 1:40, controlling games from start to finish.

“We needed that first UC Irvine loss; it kind of woke us up a bit,” Butcher said, “We needed that kind of wake up call.” 

The Hornets look to make it a six-game winning streak as they take on Fresno State in a return to The Nest next Saturday at 2 p.m.

“It’s amazing how quickly they’re coming together as a unit,” Campbell said.