Cal held off a feisty Bay Area-Pro Am Team, 61-55, in women’s basketball on Sunday afternoon at Haas Pavilion.
The Bears’ first exhibition game was a showcase for several newcomers, the most impressive of which were freshman Kristin Iwanaga and junior Audrey Watler.
The Bay Area Team, which featured former Golden Bear Eliza Sokolowska and was coached by former Cal assistant coach Ronalda Smitherman, kept the game close despite having four players foul out with only nine suited up.
Ami Forney, the Bears only returning starter, was Cal’s best player on Sunday. The senior forward/center scored 14 points and grabbed 11 rebounds after a slow start. Cal had a big edge in rebounds, 44-31, and had 25 offensive boards to just four for the Bay Area. Forney led Cal with six offensive boards.
Forney shared time in the pivot with Olga Volkova, a Ukrainian center who’s the most intriguing of the newcomers. The 6-4 sophomore transfer from Merritt College has the size and strength to give Cal a major presence in the middle, but her slow recovery from a right ACL tear will hamper her for the foreseeable future. She played just seven minutes and didn’t score against the Bay Area.
Iwanaga gives Cal the presence of a pure point guard, something the Bears have lacked in the last two seasons. Courtney Johnson played the position since 1999, but her natural position was shooting guard.
In the win Sunday, Iwanaga showed good court sense, running the fast break well and defending hard against opposing point guards. She scored nine points, dished out two assists, made three steals and had three rebounds. She was fearless when driving to the basket but was reluctant to shoot the outside shot. Cal head coach Caren Horstmeyer said her player was listening to her instruction to reverse the ball instead of looking for her own points, but the second-year coach still would like to see Iwanaga take some outside shots.
“I’d like her to be a scorer as a point guard,” Horstmeyer said. “She’s smart enough. I’m just not sure that she knows what I want from her.”
Watler, an undersized walk-on power forward at 5-10, brought energy and a solid overall performance to an otherwise ragged game. The transfer from Umpqua Community College in Oregon scored nine points and grabbed six rebounds.
“(Watler) is a gamer and she’s aggressive, and she was the only one who could score over our 6-9 [male] practice player,” Horstmeyer said. “She is hungry to play. She’s an animal.”