By Caleb Nguyen, Feb. 1, 2022

On Jan. 27, visiting conference rival Cal State Dominguez Hills defeated the Broncos by a final score of 68-59 at Kellogg Arena. The loss gives the CPP men’s team an overall 7-6 record on the season, all six losses coming against conference opponents.

In the first half, both teams shot rather poorly in what felt like a defensive struggle for most of the night. The Toros had an early five point advantage nearly seven minutes into the contest.

Tay Aubry-Thomas heads for the line for a pair of free throws.

After forward Tay Aubry-Thomas rebounded his own miss and put another shot back up and in on the prior possession, a huge dunk from forward Tavian Henderson in transition cut the lead to just one, exciting the crowd.

As the first half continued, the Broncos faced a 28-21 deficit after a made three-pointer by the Toros with just over four minutes left. The Broncos defense promptly clamped down, outscoring their opponent 11-2. Through good defensive stops and points off of turnovers, the Broncos took a 32-30 lead into the break.

However, those same forced turnovers and defense that helped give the Broncos an early advantage worked against them in the second half through the Toros’ own defensive efforts to fuel their comeback.

The Toros forced consistent steals and stops for 22 points off Bronco turnovers to tie the game and eventually take an 11 point lead they wouldn’t relinquish after the 14-minute mark of the second half.

Guard Phoenix Shackleford paced the Broncos in scoring with 14 points as well as contributions on the defensive end with three steals.

Head coach Greg Kamansky voiced his thoughts about the loss on a night where shots just weren’t falling for the Broncos against a heated conference rival.

“We don’t have many conference games this year and we’re going to have to do it the hard way and win on the road,” said Kamansky. “At some point we have to make some shots and the anchor’s on Phoenix. We have to figure out a way to put the ball in the basket, no doubt about it.”

When asked about the turnover discrepancy contributing to the loss, Kamansky mentioned the struggles of a young roster given pandemic conditions.

“This is a very immature team, making the same mistakes and so it’s frustrating,” said Kamansky. “With the COVID break, we hadn’t played in 30 days and hadn’t practiced. It’s like we took about eight steps back. We’ve got to grow up as basketball players. That’s what it comes down to.”

Henderson notched a double-double with 10 points, 10 rebounds and four assists while Aubry-Thomas had numerous hustle plays, playing with tenacity on both ends of the floor and finishing with eight points, seven rebounds and two assists.

Henderson mentioned his two dunks in the contest and his goals to help energize the team.

“Definitely plays like that cause momentum,” said Henderson. “Any time I can finish like that, I try to do so. Once we’re playing with energy, we really feed off of each other and we become successful. Whether that’s offensively a big play, or defensively, anything I can do to help our team.”

Energy was the name of Aubry-Thomas’ game Thursday night. He shared how he prides himself on his effort that might not always show up on the stat sheet.

“Hustle plays make the big difference,” said Aubry-Thomas. “Second chance opportunities are one of the few things they ask of me. As a team, your coach and teammates ask you to do the little things. Being a big man in the paint you communicate defensively to make sure we’re all on the same page.”

The Broncos will look to get back to their winning ways on the road heading into February with three upcoming away matchups starting with a game at Chico State on Feb. 3.

Feature image courtesy of Daniel Tapia

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