With a gritty performance Tuesday night, the Sonoma State men’s basketball team secured a 62-56 first-round home playoff victory against Cal Poly Pomona in the California Collegiate Athletic Association tournament.
The Seawolves started off the game pounding the ball inside to senior big man Luke Cochran.
After a quick bucket down low, the Cal Poly Pomona defense swarmed the Seawolves’ low-post attack, making it hard for the Sonoma State offense to get into any type of rhythm.
Sonoma State’s No. 1-ranked defense found a worthy adversary in the first half against Cal Poly.
The Mustang defense ran a full court press, forcing several turnovers and multiple traps.
With the Seawolves’ inside attack stifled, coach Pat Fuscaldo turned to his shooters to generate some offense and that is exactly what they did.
Guards Jimmy Golden and Jackson Gion were able to get open and knock down multiple 3-pointers, opening up Cal Poly’s tough defense.
Gion was able to hit back-to-back 3s at the end of the first half to give the Seawolves a seven-point lead going into halftime.
Cochran, a Santa Rosa JC transfer, said the team really worked on its shooting going into the game against Cal Poly. Their ability to knock down open jumpers was the big difference in the game, he said.
The Seawolves started the second half with a five-and-a-half-minute scoring drought, during which the Mustangs were able to cut Sonoma State’s lead to one.
Golden was able to spring free and knock down a corner 3 to give the Seawolves a four-point lead and end the scoreless streak.
Cal Poly outscored Sonoma State 10-3 in the first eight minutes of the second half. The Wolves’ Den echoed with boos after multiple calls in favor of Cal Poly cut the Seawolves’ lead to one.
With 10:41 remaining in the game, Armani Nicolis swiped a steal from Cal Poly and drove the length of the floor for a layup plus the foul.
Nicolis was able to cash in on the free throw, making it a three-point Sonoma State lead.
The 3-point play from Nicolis woke up the Sonoma State fans and suddenly the homecourt advantage was felt by the Mustangs.
The Seawolves were able to score the next six points, giving them their biggest lead of the game — nine with 2:58 to play.
Several sloppy turnovers and a deep 3 from Cal Poly opened the door for the Mustangs, cutting their deficit to three with 1:23 to play.
A scuffle under the basket led to a Cal Poly ejection, giving the Seawolves two free throws in the final 30 seconds.
Guard Ronnie Harris was able to make both free throws along with two more, icing the game for the Seawolves and wrapping up the victory.
The Seawolves will now head south to San Marcos for the second round of the CCAA tournament.
After the game, asked how it felt to get the victory, Cochran took a page from Super Bowl champion New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick’s playbook, only saying, “We’re on to the next round.”