Gators look to next season despite tough playoff loss

SF State Gators' junior guard Warren Jackson (center) and senior guard Coley Apsay (right) look at the floor during the last minute of a NCAA playoff game against California Baptist University Lancers at RIMAC Arena in La Jolla, Calif. on Friday, March 10, 2017. The Gators' lost to the Lancers with a score of 50-71. (Kin Lee/Xpress)

LA JOLLA — SF State’s men’s basketball team saw their historic season come to an end Friday night with a loss to #13 ranked California Baptist University, 71-50.

After keeping the game close in the first half, the Gators were on the wrong side of a 42-25 point second half, which allowed CBU to pull away.

“My hat goes off to Cal Baptist — I thought they played outstanding,” head coach Paul Trevor said. “I thought they really turned up the pressure in the second half and took us out of what we wanted to do offensively.”

The Gators started fast out of the gate in their first NCAA tournament game since the 1993-94 season, going on an 8-2 run in the first three and a half minutes.

“I thought they started the game a little sluggish and we jumped on them a bit,” Trevor said. “Then they got a little momentum — they got their energy back.”

California Baptist University head coach and SF State alum Rick Croy called an early timeout after the Gators’ 8-2 run “just to remind them of their intentions coming into the game,” he said.

“We were going to be tough on D, that was our focus, and whatever happened on the other end of the floor, we’d live with the results.”

The Gators couldn’t contain the Lancers after taking the early lead. The Lancers, playing in their fourth consecutive tournament, went on a 12-0 run to take a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

“When you get to the NCAA tournament, experience counts,” Trevor said. “Knowing what to expect, knowing how to win these games.”

“I’m glad we kind of got the feet wet,” senior center AJ Kahlon said. “Guys like Warren [Jackson] and my brother [Josh], Jase [Wickliffe], I expect them to be back here and to be totally ready since they’ve experienced it.”

California Baptist’s aggressor, senior guard Michael Smith, scored a total 21 points against the SF State.

“He’s a very good player,” junior guard Warren Jackson said. “He can score the ball in a lot of ways. Once he hit his first shot, it was hard stopping someone like that.”

The Lancers found their tactic against the Gators early, keeping All-Conference senior Coley Apsay quiet in the first half despite him being on the floor for 12 minutes. Apsay, who averaged 11.7 points a game during the regular season, finished Friday with four points.

In spite of the loss, Trevor and the Gators still see the season in a positive light.

“[The seniors] set the standard for what San Francisco State basketball is all about,” Trevor said. “I couldn’t be more proud of who they are and what they’ve meant to this program.”

“To even be here is incredible,” Kahlon said. “We didn’t get the result we wanted today but it’s awesome to even have the chance.”

Jackson, who will be returning next season, said he plans to take the lessons he learned this year into 2017-18, his senior season.

“When we started the year we didn’t expect to come this far,” he said. “But we put in a lot of work and a lot of effort and I think we can definitely carry that over to next year.”