By Bryan Stauffer
It was not the storybook ending the Cal Poly Pomona men’s basketball team was looking for, but to say they left it all out on the court would be an understatement.
Trailing by 14 points with just under 13 minutes to go in the second round of the Division II NCAA Tournament against Cal State Stanislaus, CPP fought its way back to within three points with three seconds remaining.
After CSUS missed a free throw that would have given it a four-point lead, the Broncos grabbed the rebound and were given another life. CPP capitalized on the opportunity and sunk a last second three-pointer when sophomore Berry Bell inbounded the ball to an open Jordan Finn in the corner.
The basket by the junior guard would send the game into overtime, but the Warriors prevailed in the extra five minutes, ending CPP’s title run and season by a score of 75-69.
Although Finn’s game-tying three-pointer to force overtime might have been the play of the game for the Broncos and their fans, their most crucial play may have come seconds before Finn’s shot.
With 24 seconds remaining in the second half and CPP trailing 62-59, sophomore forward Jordan Faison committed his fifth and disqualifying foul, sending the Broncos’ most dominant big man to the bench for the remainder of the game.
At the time, the foul did not appear as important as it would eventually become. CPP would have needed a prayer to force overtime, and that prayer was answered. Unfortunately, the Broncos were forced to play the next five minutes “with the season on the line” without their efficient, 6-foot-7 inside scorer.
“It hurt when Faison fouled out,” said Kamansky. “Missing some free throws in critical situations didn’t help the issue, but to be honest there’s a group of five of them in the second half ” that I rode ” that were good. We came back and I was real proud of our players because we were over matched for a long time there.”
CPP was outscored 13-7 in overtime. The Broncos sent the Warriors to the line 14 times, which resulted in 11 points, in the final five minutes after they had just 11 free throw attempts in regulation. CPP missed three of five free throw attempts in overtime and went just 2-9 from the field.
The Broncos trailed 28-24 heading into halftime and allowed the Warriors to shoot 50 percent from the field in the opening 20 minutes, which included an 8-14 showing from beyond the arc.
Despite fouling out, Faison had a team-high 18 points and added seven rebounds in 40 minutes of play. Sophomore guard Barry Bell finished with 12 points and five assists before fouling out in overtime.
It might not have been the way CPP had envisioned its season ending, but sophomore guard Daniel Rodriguez said there are some positive things that can be taken away from this experience, including how a team of primarily sophomores and juniors advanced to the second round of the national tournament.
“We had a good run this year,” said Rodriguez. “Obviously we wanted to go further, but we accomplished a lot. Going into next year, we know we can go far again given that we have the same team minus two good players in Connor [Gacek] and DeRonn [Scott]. We have a young group and everyone will have a year more of experience [next season].”
The Broncos advanced to the round of 32 after defeating Dixie State, 73-65, in the opening round of the tournament. CPP put up 32 first-half points and added 42 more in the second to advance past the Red Riders of DSU, who shot 38 percent from the field and committed 19 turnovers.
Faison led all scorers with 20 points and added five rebounds and five assists. Senior guard DeRonn Scott finished with 12 points and four assists.
CPP had three starters average at least 10 points per game in the tournament: Faison, 19 PPG, Scott, 10.5 PPG, and Finn, 10 PPG. As a team, the Broncos recorded 24 steals and showcased why they are the best defensive team in the country.
Although the Broncos fell short of their ultimate team goal, they had two athletes receive personal accolades for their achievements this season. CPP’s Scott and Faison were named to the ALL-CCAA first team on March 5, where they joined Cal State San Bernardino as the only schools with two athletes on the first team.
Scott continued to gain recognition later in the month as he was named to the All-West Region Second Team by both the National Association of Basketball Coaches and Daktronics.
The Broncos will return all but two guards next season, Scott and senior Connor Gacek, but will welcome back junior guard Terrence Drisdom who was a medical redshirt this season.
Rodriguez has high hopes for the Broncos, looking forward to the 2014-15 season, including that of winning it all this time around.
“But it doesn’t start there,” Rodriguez said. “We need to do well in conference as well as our preseason in order to make the NCAA tournament again. My expectations for the team are to win a conference championship and to advance to the Elite Eight. [It’s] easier said than done, but I think we have a real shot with the amount of returners we have and Terrence Drisdom coming back from his redshirt year.”
CPP falls in round of 32
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