When she was in high school, point guard Alyssa Marin recalled a situation in the CIF playoffs when she had to knock down three free throws to tie the contest.

The first went in and so did the second. But the third rattled out and Marin has been left remembering that disappointment.

Wednesday night at the Thunderdome, she was able to redeem that moment and then some, this time while donning her UC Santa Barbara women’s basketball uniform. She hit three free throws to help the Gauchos pull off an improbable 63-62 victory over Cal State Bakersfield.

“These wins, they are just really, really, really nice,” Marin said after the game.

“It’s conference play, no matter who you’re going against, no matter what, it’s going to be a good game. We have really good teams in this conference, so the biggest thing for us is that we practice these situations so much, that when we get to them, I feel like we have a lot more confidence.”

Fouled with 4.4 seconds left behind the 3-point line, Marin knocked down the first and the second. And, this time, she knocked down the third.

“I have been in that stuation before but the biggest thing for me is to try not to think about it too much and take really deep breaths,” she said.

“It gets a little easier after making the first one because you calm down a little bit. Your heart’s pumping, you can feel the nerves, but after that first one, it gets easier. And I had my teammates who had so much confidence in me. They were telling me, ‘Just knock it down like it’s practice.’”

On the ensuing defensive possession, fellow guard Anya Choice made the play of the year so far, recovering from a back screen that nearly took her out of the play entirely and coming up with a clutch block against Bakersfield’s Grace Hunter, who led all scorers with 22.

“I sprinted probably harder than I ever have and I just jumped and I got the block,” Choice said.

“All I was thinking was just go for the ball. I jumped to the side of her so I wouldn’t land on her and just tried to reach and block it and I managed to do that.”

It was a tough night shooting for Choice, as she went just 1-for-8 from the floor just one game after dropping her season high 17 against Cal Poly.

But for her, it’s always about “remaining confident.”

“I just got to keep my confidence. I’ve been in a little shooting slump but I have to keep my confidence and keep shooting them and they will fall,” she said.

“My teammates, my coaches all told me to keep shooting so that helps with my confidence. I know that they all have confidence in me and we have confidence in each other so that’s great.”

After the crucial block, the ball then found its way to Marin, who got fouled by Hunter. Being in the double bonus, that gave UCSB free throws with 1.2 seconds left.

Marin knocked down the first and although she missed the second, it didn’t matter as CSUB failed to get a shot off in the final second, giving the Gauchos the win.

“I don’t think I have ever been a part of a win like that, it was incredible,” Choice said with a smile.

“We never gave up and that’s my favorite part. We never gave up throughout the whole fourth quarter especially in that last minute down five. We never gave up and we pulled it out.”

Even before all that, however, UCSB still needed a miracle, trailing by six with just over 30 seconds left.

Alexis Tucker, who would finish with 16 points on the night, knocked down a clutch three to cut it to three. 

After a pair of makes at the charity stripe by Hunter put the lead back up to five, 61-56, freshman Jessica Grant, the team’s best shooter, knocked down a 3 with 18 seconds left to cut the lead down to just two.

Hunter was once again fouled and missed one of her two free throws. The rebound was controlled by Tucker and the ball eventually found its way to Marin who was fouled on the 3-point play and the rest was history.

What’s more, Marin played just three minutes in the final frame, sitting for the majority of the quarter, only being subbed back in with under a minute as the Gauchos needed offense, UCSB coach Bonnie Henrickson said.

“She’s a confident kid and she’s a team kid. She wasn’t over on the bench pouting because she wasn’t playing. That would be a problem because the energy you have on the bench is exactly the energy you’re gonna bring to the floor, but she’s never had that issue,” Henrickson said.

On Choice’s block, Henrickson said it was probably the team’s “biggest 50/50 ball we’ve had this year.”

“Anya just stayed in the play. We say all the time, stay in the play, stay in the play and when we practice these situations, we always talk about finishing the play,” Henrickson said. 

As a team, UCSB shot just 31% from the field and 29% from deep, as the majority of the team just struggled to find its shot.

But the team was clutch from the free-throw line, shooting 24-for-26.

“The easy part to me is knocking down the shots, the hard part is getting there. It’s the only shot you’re not guarded, it never changes, always the same. Now the situation may change, but you do the hard work to earn your free throws and then reward yourself and your team by knocking them down,” Henrickson said.

“And it adds up. If we don’t shoot it that well, then it’s not a five point game, that’s a 10 point game.”

Still, one Gaucho who didn’t struggle was Ila Lane, who put forth her best game of the season, scoring 20 points and collecting 16 boards.

“I thought her positioning was good. I thought she was more intense about where she caught the ball. But you also can’t underestimate how how much work it takes to be a good passer because we don’t want a bounce pass because we don’t want to have to go down plus it’s slower, we don’t want one that floats in the air, we want hit Ila in the hands and let her go to work and we did that,” Henrickson said.

Asked about what a win like this does for the team, Henrickson said, simply, “it builds confidence.”

“Winning and losing, it’s fragile. Don’t let a win go to your head and don’t let a loss go to your heart, you have to stay off that roller coaster because the season’s a lifetime,” Henrickson said, crediting Eliza Pierre, former UCSB assistant coach who is now at Cal, with the quote.

“There’s a lot of self confidence and belief but there’s a humility about this group that makes me sleep better at night. They’re not out here thinking they’re better than everybody else or they don’t disrespect people that we play. They play hard every night.”

UCSB’s next contest is UC Riverside on Saturday.