Cal Poly Pomona knocked off Sonoma State University’s men’s basketball team in the regular season finale last week, but the Seawolves earned redemption at a game of greater importance, Tuesday night’s California Collegiate Athletic Association tournament opener, 63-56, in the Wolves’ Den.
The victory puts the Seawolves into the CCAA semifinals tonight, March 3, against San Francisco State. Tipoff is scheduled for 8:05 p.m. at the Sports Center in San Marcos.
SSU upped its record to 20-7.
Meeting for the second time in four days, Sonoma was looking to get off to a much better start out of the gate this time around. From the very beginning of the contest one could tell it was going to be a grind throughout the duration of the game with both teams unable to pull away early on.
Neither team was able to find any separation until Ronnie Harris made a pair of free throws with 10:29 left in the half, putting the Seawolves up 18-13, which was their largest lead of the game at the time. After going up 20-16 with 8 minutes to go before halftime, Sonoma suddenly went cold and went 4 minutes without a field goal. Fortunately for SSU, its defense was able to hold CPP to only four points in that time span.
With the score knotted at 20, the Seawolves went on a 7-0 run that included a 3-point basket by Jimmy Golden, a steal by Brian Johnson and a fast break layup by Khalid Johnson to take a 27-20 lead with 3:16 remaining in the half. A couple of possessions later, Jackson Gion made 3-point shots on back-to-back possessions, putting the Seawolves up nine, before heading into halftime with a 33-26 lead. Sonoma shot the ball really well in the first half, going 9 for 19 from the floor (47.7 percent) and were especially dialed in from distance, going 5-9 (55.6 percent) out of the gate. The nation's No. 1-ranked defense also held CPP to 8-for-24 shooting (33.3 percent) and 2 of 11 from 3-point range.
SSU struggled to get into a rhythm upon returning from the break, being held scoreless for the first five and a half minutes, until Golden made a 3-pointer to increase the lead to 36-31. Still trying to find a rhythm, SSU eventually fell behind 38-37 with 11:23 left in the contest. Looking for a spark plug, the Seawolves turned to Isaac Davidson, a freshman from Auckland, New Zealand, off the bench and immediately he started a rally. Moments after checking in, he made a floater from the free throw line, which was the start of a 9-0 run and suddenly Sonoma was up by eight, leading 46-38 with 8:44 to go.
The Seawolves seemed to be sitting on a comfortable 57-48 lead with 3:24 left in the game, but any basketball fan knows that 3 minutes is an eternity, especially down the stretch. The Broncos managed to rally back and cut the deficit to 59-56 with 1:23 remaining after a few made baskets by Jordan Ogundiran and their ability to force turnovers because of immense defensive pressure. The score would hold up at 59-56 until about three seconds left in the game, when tempers began to flare. After Ogundiran missed a layup, Armani Nicolis grabbed the rebound, which was quickly followed by an intentional foul. After Ogundiran fouled Nicolis, Ogundiran was hit with a double technical, resulting in his ejection from the game.
Harris sank all four of the technical free throws and the Seawolves won the contest by a score of 63-56.
Golden led the way with 13 points, and Harris followed with 10 points. As a team, SSU shot 45.9 percent overall, going 17 for 37 from the floor and hit 50 percent of its 3-pointers, going 8 for 16. SSU also connected on 21 of 27 free throws. The defense held CPP to 38.3 percent shooting and 27.3 percent on from 3-point range.