The Loyola Marymount University men’s basketball team hit the 20-win plateau for the second time since 1990 with a 74-69 victory March 2 over San Francisco, securing a first round bye in this week's West Coast Conference Championships in Las Vegas.

The Lions (20-10, 8-8 WCC) were tough at game’s end, as Erik Johansson sank his only basket of the game, a three-pointer with 2:05 remaining to break a 62-62 tie. LMU then converted nine free throws to seal the win, with James Batemon (19 points) making the last five.

Eli Scott scored 15 points as LMU — which in the first half kept USF from scoring for an eight-and-a-half-minute stretch — battled back after falling behind.

The WCC Tournament begins March 7, with LMU, as the No. 5 seed, playing its first game March 8 (6 p.m.) against the Pacific-Pepperdine victor. A win would send the Lions to the quarterfinals March 9 against San Francisco, with semifinals March 11 and finals March 12.

Women’s basketball

The LMU women’s team’s  (17-13, 10-8 WCC) concluded its regular season last week by splitting two games in the Pacific Northwest.

On Feb. 28, the Lions cruised to a 780-54 win at Portland, leading by 21 after three quarters. Gabby Green scored 17 points and grabbed seven rebounds; Bree Alford had 11 points and 13 rebounds; and Chelsey Gipson tallied 11 points.

On March 2, however, LMU fell to 16th-ranked Gonzaga, 68-58, despite taking a 32-25 lead at halftime. The Lions shot just 25 percent in the second half and only 35 percent for the afternoon against the WCC champions, as Green scored 15 points (plus nine rebounds), Gipson 14, and Cierra Belvin and Jasmine Jones 10 each.

For the WCC Tournament in Las Vegas, the Lions (like the men’s team) drew the No. 5 seed and a first-round bye. LMU plays the San Francisco-Portland winner on March 8 (noon), and if victorious advances to the quarterfinals against No. 4 St. Mary’s.

Academic honors

LMU’s Erik Johansson, a junior psychology major with a 3.49 GPA, was named to the WCC Men's Basketball All-Academic team. A native of Sodertalje, Sweden, Johansson was an WCC All-Academic Honorable Mention selection as a sophomore, and has played in 26 games for the Lions, averaging 10 minutes per game.

Two Lions were named to the WCC Women's Basketball All-Academic team: graduate student Bree Alford and senior Andee Velasco. Alford, from Walnut Creek, is pursuing a Master's Degree in educational studies with a 3.73 GPA, and becoming the team and conference leader in rebounds.

It is the second consecutive appearance on the 10-person team for Velasco, an entrepreneurship major from Mater Dei High School with a 3.51 cumulative GPA off the court, while setting the all-time assists record for LMU on the court.

Named honorable mention were Cierra Belvin, a junior communication studies major; Josie Buckingham, completing a Master's in educational studies; and senior Bianca Velasco, Andee’s sister from Mater Dei and majoring in entrepreneurship.

Mike Nelson is the former editor of The Tidings (predecessor of Angelus News).

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