Sonoma State University basketball teams to celebrate return to remodeled gym
The saying “there’s no place like home” has a different meaning for everyone, depending on what and where you call home.
For the Sonoma State University men’s basketball team, they call “The Wolves’ Den” gym home. And Friday, for the first time in three months (after playing 15 “home” games elsewhere) the Seawolves will return to their den.
When Sonoma State scheduled a remodeling project during the basketball season, the Seawolves were forced to play six of their home games at College of the Marin and Santa Rosa Junior College this season.
“At first it was a little frustrating,” center Luke Cochran said. “We felt on our own out there, but it brought us together. It made us play for ourselves and each other only.”
Not only did the Seawolves’ home court situation start out rocky, but they started the season with three consecutive losses.
“We felt like we didn’t really get beat; we gave those games away on our own,” guard Jackson Gion said. “It made us focus and we spent a lot of time in practice working on late-game situations to hone in on closing games out.”
Whatever they did it seemed to work.
After an early wakeup call, the Seawolves went on to win four of their next five and have now won nine of their past 12. Before the Seawolves’ recent loss to nationally ranked San Francisco State, the Seawolves had won five consecutive games. They have since won two in a row.
Their record now stands at 13-5 overall and 9-3 in the CCAA conference, one of their best starts since the 2005-06 season — the last time they won their conference and qualified for the NCAA Division II tournament.
The Seawolves are currently tied for third place in the CCAA, which is packed full of tough competition this season. The top six teams all have .500 or better records — and two of the teams are nationally ranked.
Defense has been a staple in the team’s success. The Seawolves have the best defense in Division II, holding opponents to only 58 points per game.
That’s two points lower than the next-best team, Northwest Missouri State.
Earlier in the season, the Seawolves’ defense held Cal State East Bay to only 38 points, the lowest single-game total by an opponent in Sonoma State history.
Gion said he knew when he transferred to Sonoma State that he was going to have to defend.
“We spent a lot of long practices where we didn’t even touch a basketball, working on defensive game-planning in film,” Gion said. “All the stats and records are just a credit to our coaching staff for how hard they’ve worked getting us prepared.”
Analy product Nathan Molony-Benjamin has been the anchor in the middle of the Sonoma State defense. The senior center is the university’s all-time leader in blocks — breaking Chris Oliver’s record that stood for 14 years during a game on New Year’s Eve with three blocks against Cal State East Bay.
Molony-Benjamin has 88 blocks in his career — especially impressive because he has racked up that total over only three years.
He did not record a block his freshman season, when he only played in 35 minutes the entire year.
He leads the team in blocks and steals, with 32 blocks on the season to go along with 16 steals.