In the last five minutes of the California Collegiate Athletic Association tournament championship, the clock, not UC San Diego seemed to be men’s basketball’s toughest opponent.
After trailing by as much as 19 points in the second half, the Broncos (23-6) spent the last 15 minutes of the game chipping away at the Tritons (21-10) lead. When they finally pulled within one score on a pull up three by sophomore guard William Christmas, only 14 seconds remained.
A combination of converted free throws and time proved too much to overcome as the Tritons hung on for a 68-66 win Saturday night.
“We almost had to play perfect the last eight minutes,” coach Greg Kamansky said. “We missed one open three, a couple free throws, when you’re down 16 or whatever it is you have to play perfect.”
Christmas was also close to perfect in the second half, scoring 16 points on 7-of-9 shooting in 16 minutes.
“They’re packing it in and trying to play really hard help defense so I’m just trying to be aggressive and get in the lane, force them to over help so we can get some of our shooters free,” Christmas said.
Perfect described the Broncos start. They jumped out to an 11-2 lead in the first eight minutes. UC San Diego outscored Cal Poly Pomona 26-10 in the remainder of the half to take a 28-21 lead into the break.
“They got very physical, we kind of backed down a little bit offensively on that stuff, we weren’t used to that kind of physicality,” Kamansky said.
The run continued into the second half as the Tritons looked to put the game away with a 14-2 run five minutes into the second half capped off by a 3-pointer by Christian Bayne that put UC San Diego up 42-23.
In the next 15 minutes, the Broncos took small bites out of the deficit and with each basket the crowd surged to life only for a small run by UC San Diego to keep Cal Poly Pomona at arms distance.
“We were going to the hole a lot stronger, with a lot more aggression and we were actually jump stopping and kicking it out to some shooters and playing a little more freestyle basketball,” Kamanksy said.
Christmas finished with a game-high 22 points to go along with eight rebounds.
Sophomore guard Riley Schaefer scored all his 13 points in the second half.
Despite the loss in the championship, the Broncos regular season title earned them the No. 4 seed in the west region and will take part in the NCAA Division II West Regional this week against No. Saint Martin’s (24-8).
“That mentality that we showed, the last eight to 10 minutes, it’s something that we can take forward in case we hit some adversity which we will,” Ogundiran said.
To reach the championship, CPP needed a late comeback and overtime to top San Francisco State 67-60 on Friday afternoon.
After trailing by six with under two minutes to go, the Broncos pulled within two with a minute remaining and the Gators in possession.
In 30 seconds the fans inside Kellogg Arena experienced every possible emotion.
Christmas tipped a pass at mid court that Ogundiran collected the ball on the floor and passed it to Christmas who lost control and turned the ball back to San Francisco State.
Christmas redeemed the error by intercepting a pass and taking the ball from one end of the court finishing with a layup off the glass with 23 ticks on the clock.
“They had been running the same play for about four or five possessions straight, so I think I just finally got to the spot and he threw a pass, he gave it to me,” Christmas said. “Once I got the ball I was just thinking, ‘well I got to make a play.’”
Warren Jackson’s 3-pointer bounced off the rim and out as the buzzer sounded for the end of regulation.
In overtime, the Ogundiran, who struggled through most of the game scored six of the Broncos nine points as they outscored San Francisco 9-2.
In the first half, CPP made two field goals in the first nine minutes of the game and trailed 21-14 with four minutes left in the half.
Christmas scored his first points of the game with back-to-back threes and Nibo added another as the Broncos ended the half on a 13-3 run to lead 27-24 at the break.
The Broncos carried the run into the second half extending the lead to 10 points.
San Francisco did not fade and chipped away at the Broncos’ lead in the next seven minutes until a three pointer by Evan Zeller tied the game at 46 with 7:08 left in the game.
The team opened the tournament with a 73-60 win over Cal State Dominguez Hills.
The Broncos took awhile to get going but eased into the lead with a couple of timely runs to comfortably move on to the semifinal in the first round of the tournament.
The first run came in the first when the team flipped the score from down five to up to up eight in six minutes of play thanks to a 15-1 run.
Dominguez Hills hit three 3-pointers to start the game, but after the 14:22 mark in the first half, went without a field goal made for 10 minutes, finally scoring with a three four minutes from the half.
The extra curriculars kicked off after the Broncos’ run as Ogundiran and Jonathon Nichols each picked up a technical foul after Nichols clapped in front of Ogundiran who was just called for a foul and Ogundiran reacted by moving toward Nichols.
Broncos committed 11 personal fouls in the first half with the players, Kamansky and the crowd inside Kellogg Arena voicing their collective displeasure with every whistle.
Throughout the half Kamansky prowled the sideline, questioning any official who would listen about the decisions.
“That was more on me, with the referees and I was highly upset, but we all got to control ourselves better,” Kamansky said. “It’s just tough because seasons are over, I mean these are playoffs.”
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