By Dean Boerner | Editor-in-Chief

Jasmine Forcadilla (3) works with Megan McKay (25) to penetrate the WSU defense. (Alexander Victoria/COLLEGIAN)

In their opening week, Saint Mary’s got the full Pac-12 experience as they battled Cal and then Washington State in their first two games of the new season. The Gaels dropped their season-opening contest to the Golden Bears 87-80 but found more luck against Washington State, defeating the Cougars 81-75 at McKeon Pavilion.

At Haas Pavilion on Friday night, it was the Gaels who got out to an early seven-point lead. A transition three-pointer and a layup by senior guard Stella Beck put Saint Mary’s up 16-9 midway through the first quarter.

No. 22 Cal stormed back, though. The Golden Bears went on a 10-0 run, pulling ahead 19-16 in a first quarter that they would finish leading 23-19.

Saint Mary’s kept the game close throughout the second period thanks in large part to the productivity of freshman duo Madeline Holland and Emily Codding. Holland knotted the game 23-23 with a layup and then 34-34 with a three-pointer, while Codding added a game-tying three of her own that tied the contest 31-31.

Nevertheless, the Bears ended up extending their lead in the second quarter. After Holland’s three tied the game, Cal embarked on an 11-0 run to end the half, holding the Gaels scoreless for the final 4:37 of the second quarter.

Cal seemed to pick up right where they left off when a Kristine Anigwe layup made it a 13-point game, but Saint Mary’s began to slowly but surely chip away at the Bears’ advantage. The Gaels came within seven after a layup by Megan McKay. Cal pushed it back to double-digits several more times, lastly on a pair of free-throws by Cal guard Alaysia Styles, but Saint Mary’s crept back into the game from there. The Gaels used a 10-2 run, which featured threes by Codding and Beck, to make it a three-point game and then came within one on free-throws by sophomore Joy Akaegbu-Cleveland. Saint Mary’s would go on to finish the third quarter strongly. Stella Beck converted a layup with 12 seconds to go, and the Gaels’ 30-19 third-quarter advantage had the game tied 66-66 heading into the fourth quarter.

The game stayed close for most of the final quarter, but the final two minutes went the Bears’ way. Saint Mary’s took the lead on a layup by Megan McKay four minutes into the fourth, but Cal’s defense clamped down, allowing the Bears to use a 9-2 run to win the game.

Beck put up 22 points, eight rebounds, and four assists, while Sydney Raggio recorded a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds in the losing effort.

Saint Mary’s then came home to Moraga for a Sunday afternoon matchup with Washington State.

Holland hit a three to open the first quarter for the Gaels, who in the first ten minutes would lead by as many as six points. But the Cougars would keep things close. Alexys Swedlund’s seven first-quarter points gave Washington State the lead before Saint Mary’s closed the period with four points by Raggio to make it 22-19.

The Cougars regrouped in a low-scoring second quarter. The Gaels extended their lead to seven with a basket by Beck at the 6:14 mark, but the Cougars went on a 16-8 run to head into the half up 37-36.

In a mostly back-and-forth third quarter, the Gaels made a difference-making run in the final two minutes. Neither team built a lead larger than three until two layups by Sydney Raggio put Saint Mary’s up 58-53. Then, on the next trip down the floor, a three by sophomore Jasmine Forcadilla put the Gaels up eight with 36 seconds left in the third.

In the fourth, the Cougars would get as close as to within four, but five fourth-quarter points by Stella Beck, four from Megan McKay, and four from Sydney Raggio helped Saint Mary’s hold off the Cougars for their first win of the year.

McKay had 22 points and 11 rebounds in the contest, Beck added 17 points, six rebounds, and six assists, and Raggio put up 14 points and eight rebounds.

Now 1-1 overall, Saint Mary’s will host Cal Poly this Sunday at 1 p.m.

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