Wild crowd leads Gators to a win
In its last home game of the regular season, the SF State men’s basketball team defeated the Chico State Wildcats 64-62 in overtime thanks in part to a large and rowdy crowd on senior night.
Approximately 740 people cheered in the stands, most of them chanting, “Let’s go Gators!” and “Defense!” in the main gymnasium on Friday night.
“We fed off their energy,” said senior guard and co-captain Phoenix O’ Rourke. “I’ll never forget this game. To sum it up in one word: fun. This game was a lot of fun!”
With three minutes and 18 seconds left in the game, the score was tied 51-51. After a missed three-point shot by O’ Rourke, it was the Wildcats’ junior guard Jay Flores who nailed a 3-pointer fading away from the top of the key to give his team a 54-51 lead.
The Gators (16-10, 14-8) responded just 22 seconds later when junior forward Winston Demmin scored in the paint with a jump shot. Demmin’s field goal was followed by a made free throw from Chico’s sophomore guard Damario Sims, who tied senior forward Roderick Hawkins as the team’s leading scorer with 20 points.
With his team down two points and one minute and five seconds remaining, Demmin put the Gators in position to win the game in regulation, tying it at 55, knocking down two huge free throws after being fouled in the air on a loose ball.
“This game was a lot like a roller coaster,” said senior guard and co-captain Marquel Hoskins, who scored six points, recorded six assists and grabbed four rebounds in the game. “We were up and then we were down. Then there was a moment where we went on a scoreless streak. But then, we looked for Winston and started going to him in the paint because that is what we do when we need some buckets.”
Chico’s freshman guard Sean Park launched a 3-pointer with 48 seconds left, but his shot ended up bouncing off the rim, forcing a battle between the two teams for the rebound. Hoskins later came down with the rebound and quickly called a timeout to allow the Gators to run what could have been the last play of the game.
“The whole time coach said the game would come down to defense,” Hoskins said. “Offensively, we were told to share the ball.”
The ball was thrown in to Hoskins at the 39-second mark after he rolled off a Demmin screen. Hoskins held the ball for the next 12 seconds before throwing the ball back to Demmin who, unfortunately committed a costly turnover by throwing a hard low pass to senior center Matt Fochtman, who couldn’t hold on to the ball. Demmin clapped in frustration when the Wildcats called their last timeout of the game because he knew the turnover was his fault.
“We talked today about competing for one another and sharing the ball,” said first-year head coach Paul Trevor after celebrating his team’s win on senior night by kissing his baby daughter. “It was an important night and I have a special group of young men. Any coach would love to have them.”
The Gators’ defense came up with a stop and made the play of the game with 14.2 seconds left. Sims drove baseline into a crowd of Gator defenders, but the SF State players collectively bothered his shot enough that he missed. Moments later, Park would tip back into the hoop, but the shot would not count since the horn had already sounded signaling the end of the game.
“We knew we had it,” O’ Rourke said. “We needed to break the funk we were in. They might have had the momentum, but we ended that once we entered the overtime period.”
In overtime, the Gators sealed the win with a 6-2 run behind some sharp free throw shooting from sophomore guard Nefi Perdomo. According to Trevor, Perdomo’s seven free throws down the stretch really brought his first season full circle. The victory wrapped up the season on a high point despite going 6-4 down the stretch.
“I have some great guys,” coach Trevor said. “I’m a glass full kind of guy. I was the new guy and they had to accept me. But, I knew once they did that, I knew we were going to be good.”