The Broncos hosted the quarterfinals of the California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) Tournament Tuesday. The No. 2 seeded Broncos were matched up to play the No. 7 seeded Cal State Dominguez Hills Toros in the match. As two-time defending conference champions, the team knew what was at stake. In the ultimate slugfest of the year, the Broncos came out on top with a score of 67-66 in overtime.
“It was a great game because we won it,” head coach Greg Kamansky said. “That was our worst shooting game of the year, but one of our best defensive games.”
The chances looked slim for the Broncos after junior guard Phoenix Shackelford came up short in his attempt to the basket with 8.8 seconds left in the game. However, there was just enough time for senior guard William Christmas to tip the ball in half a second before the buzzer went off, sending the game into overtime.
“I was just trying to be aggressive and get to the basket, not settle,” Shackelford said. “After I missed the first basket, I just thought, ‘Get the rebound,’ and not think about it.”
“I was just hoping to get the rebound. Luckily, I was there and I was able to tip it in,” Christmas said.
Down 66-62, senior guard Nikhil Peters shot a deep three to put the Broncos behind just one. It was Christmas who would secure the final basket. Senior forward Justin Young closed out on Colton Kresl, the Toros’ leading scorer, sending the Broncos down to La Jolla for the semifinal match.
It was a team effort. Earlier in the night, junior guard BJ Standley scored a tough layup, while junior guard/forward Tavian Henderson delivered a crowd-pleasing slam dunk over the Toros’ 7-foot-1 player. Junior guard Mason Dickerson sunk a 3-point shot to help keep the Broncos neck and neck, while senior guard Riley Schaefer played hard defense and got a steal that would lead to a layup for Christmas.
“We had to remember the last game, they beat us in overtime. We needed to have some pride in that,” Kamansky said.
The CCAA announced its all-conference accolades on March 5. Christmas, for the third year in a row, was first team. Schaefer, who received honorable mention last season, earned first-team honors as well. Finally, Standley secured second-team honors in his first season as a Bronco.
For the semifinal match of the tournament, the Broncos would face the Chico State Wildcats for the third time this season.
Peters started the Broncos off strong with the first 3-pointer of the game off an assist from Schaefer, while Young started off his stellar 13-point performance with a classic dunk. Sophomore forward Finn Eckhardt and Dickerson drained a couple baskets to keep the pace going. At the end of the first half, Henderson sank another basket to take the Broncos’ momentum into halftime with a score of 32-26.
The Broncos came out fired up in the second half. Their offense was clicking on all cylinders and they never looked back. Christmas led the way with 17 points followed by Young (13). Shackelford and Standley couldn’t be stopped with 13 and 11 points, respectively.
The Broncos outscored the Wildcats 46-27 in the second half, sending them to familiar territory: the championship.
“We just had to keep our energy high and that’s what we did in the second half,” Young said. “Everybody was contributing and hitting shots.”
“It was a great all-around performance by us. All 10 guys contributed,” Kamansky said. “Second half we played really well. We started shooting better. Our defense was as good as it’s been all year.”
The tournament championship was a much-anticipated showdown between the two most dominant teams in the conference. The last three years have been a battle between the Broncos and the Tritons of UCSD. Similar to the other games, the teams went point for point in the first half. The Broncos were able to stop the CCAA Player of the Year, Tyrell Roberts, from scoring any points in the first half. This was even more impressive due to the fact Roberts came off a 45-point performance the previous night.
The team started off strong with the usual starters of Peters, Schaefer, Christmas, Young and Standley evenly contributing. The Broncos trailed just 28-34 going into halftime.
In the second half, the Tritons began to heat up. As a consequence of too many turnovers, fouls and untimely missed shots, the game began to slip away from the Broncos. The Broncos closed the Triton lead to just 10 points at 54-44, but the Tritons’ well-timed run at the end would have them come out on top. UCSD won the game with a score of 76-62.
“Our guys competed really hard … UCSD is one of the best teams in the country,” Kamansky said. “We were right there with them in the first half, but we had way too many turnovers. We competed until the end, it just got a little out of hand.”
The Broncos will head to the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s West Regional quarterfinals on Friday as the No. 3 seed. They will take on No. 6 seed, Point Loma. The seniors have yet to win a NCAA tournament game, so Kamansky is excited for the challenge ahead for them and the rest of his team.
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