By ALEXANDRA WILDER & CARLOS OLIVARES
Due to the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19), two winning seasons were cut short. A trip to the West Region championship was stripped away from the senior class, after leading teams to countless victories in the previous months. Both the men and women’s basketball teams had an impressive senior class, five of whom were recognized with All-California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) honors. Entering their senior campaigns, none of them would have ever expected their seasons to end like this.
When senior guard Mylah Andrada first heard about the spread of the coronavirus, she did not know how to react. She was upset to later hear that the team had to return home due to the National Collegiate Athletic Association Regionals being canceled just after landing in Hawaii hours prior. Andrada suffered an anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus injury in the last game of last season, which prevented her from playing until this mid-season. She tries to see the positive side of this disaster.
“At first, I didn’t know what to feel because I guess I didn’t want to believe it and it wasn’t expected obviously,” Andrada said. “I didn’t want to end my season like that, but health is better than anything. I’m just grateful to be walking away healthy because that wasn’t the case for me last year, so I’ve been trying to look at the bigger picture.”
Senior point guard Jackie Ricketson was having an All-CCAA women’s First Team season, dishing out 169 assists throughout, putting her at No. 1 in the assist leaders list.
“It’s obviously sad and disappointing,” Ricketson said. “The hardest part to come to terms with was just not knowing if our team would have won the next game and kept going. We had no idea that the Stanislaus game would be our last game ever with each other, so it’s really disheartening.”
Senior forward Kasey Smit was also having an All-CCAA women’s First Team season, placing in the top five in scoring, rebounding and blocks/steals. Smit and Ricketson played as a dynamic duo and led the Broncos to 19 overall victories.
“It really sucks that you went through all this hard work and you see the growth you become as a player,” Smit said. “As soon as we found out about the whole coronavirus thing that next morning and that our game was canceled, we just felt really bummed and felt like crap because we couldn’t play. I didn’t want it to end the way it ended against Stanislaus. I just thought we deserved a second chance to redeem ourselves.”
The men’s basketball team was seeking revenge in the West Region tournament in La Jolla due to a close, yet disappointing finish in the CCAA conference championship. With an overall record of 23-7 and a conference record of 17-5, the experienced group of seniors was looking to finish out their careers on a high note. No strangers to success, the seniors compiled a winning record of 79-34 overall with a conference record of 62-24 over their four years, along with two conference championships in a row.
Forward Justin Young would get the crowd going every game with one of his signature dunks. He recalled his career as “one hell of a ride.” His experience as a fifth-year senior made him a staple of the starting lineup. Young helped carry the team past Chico State in the semifinal match of the conference tournament with 13 points.
Guard and team captain Nikhil Peters was relentless on defense. Peters was known for sinking deep shots in crunch time and making teams turn the ball over due to his efforts as a defender.
“Being a senior and knowing this is my last go around and I can’t participate in anything just makes me sad,” Peters said. “We were playing extremely well.”
In the quarterfinal matchup against the Dominguez Hills Toros, Peters made a 3-point shot in overtime that would put them behind just one at 65-66. The Broncos won 67-66.
Guard/forward Riley Schaefer was one of two players to be recognized as First-Team All-CCAA. After being recognized as an honorable mention last year, Schaefer contributed even more to the team this season, becoming the second leading scorer. When guard William Christmas was out with an injury, Schaefer stepped up and had back-to-back 20-point games to carry the team past its opponents, earning him CCAA Player of the Week for Jan. 6-12.
“It sucks to have our careers and seasons end this way,” Schaefer said. “We, the seniors, really felt like we had the best shot at winning a regional since we got to campus.”
“I know we are not alone, as teams all over the country felt the exact same way. I’m not sure why it had to end this way, but I support the decision because of the seriousness of this virus. It just is extremely unfortunate it had to happen at this time,” Schaefer said.
Christmas was also a First-Team selection for the third year in a row. As the Broncos’ leading scorer, Christmas made a huge impact on and off the court. As a team captain, Christmas set an example of selflessness and hard work. His drive to win was contagious and would rally the team in difficult moments. Christmas was also named CCAA Player for the Week on Dec. 2-8.
“This ending sucks, but it’s part of the time we are living in,” Christmas said. “It’s been a great four years and I think the most important thing that I gained from this experience is the family bond you get with your coaches and teammates. It’s something that can’t be recreated in any other activity but sports. I don’t have any regrets as far as my career went. We won a lot and I was able to achieve a lot.”
“Sometimes as a coach, you reflect on your own private moments, it’s heartbreaking,” head coach Greg Kamansky said. “I tried not to think about our last game together. Riley, Will, Justin and Nick … what those four have meant to our program, no words can be spoken about that. I was lucky to have those guys and coach their last few games in college.”
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