There is a saying that goes, “It’s hard to beat a team three straight times in a row.”
Playing in its first home playoff game, the SF State men’s basketball team made some unbelievable defensive plays against the Cal Poly Pomona Broncos on March 1, but eventually lost 69-66 in overtime to a bitter California Collegiate Athletic Association rival.
“I’m heartbroken,” said senior guard and co-captain Phoenix O’Rourke, who recorded a career high five steals in the game. “It’s hard to beat any team three times in a row, including the defending NCAA champs.”
Before the season started, the Gators were picked to finish eighth while the Broncos were picked to finish first by the 12 head coaches in the CCAA.
However, Tuesday’s three-point loss not only diminishes this pre-season poll, but it also justifies the number four seeding that SF State received at the end of the regular season by going 14-8 in its conference.
“Cal Poly has been in the finals the last two years,” O’Rourke said. “Hopefully we got some respect and made a name for SF State today.”
The Gators began the game by going on a 9-1 run and were executing offensively on nearly every play.
Still, the Broncos took advantage of some bad officiating late and tied the game. The score was 17-17 with seven minutes left in the first half.
“I’m not one to get into it with officials,” said first-year head coach Paul Trevor. “It’s just one of those things that happen. We made some bad decisions.”
Although Cal Poly Pomona is the fifth best team in the CCAA and won the 2009-2010 NCAA Division II National Championship, the Gators led by junior forward Winston Demmin’s game-high 23 points, gave the home crowd much to cheer for as they withstood a 4-0 run by the Broncos to end the first half.
At halftime with the score 33-29, coach Paul Trevor calmed his team down and told them that they were capable of playing a whole lot better.
“We had to figure out what was going on,” he said. “We lost our drive. We went on a scoring drought and lost our focus.”
According to coach Trevor, his team responded in the second half and slowed the Broncos’ zone defense. While the Gators got some good open looks, shots weren’t going down as SF State went 10-24 from the field.
“We practiced movements and put up more shots in practice before tonight’s game,” Trevor said. “Their zone defense is what won them a championship. We didn’t shoot very well. Nevertheless, we went to overtime.”
The Broncos attempted 19 free throw shots on 14 personal fouls committed by SF State in the second half. With the score tied 59-59, sophomore guard Nefi Perdomo, who lead the team in scoring this season with 15.2 points per game, fouled out with a minute and 20 seconds left in the game.
Without their leading scorer, the Gators leaned on Demmin down the stretch. Demmin went 8-8 from the free throw line and made two clutch free throws to make the game 61-61 with 32 seconds left.
“I just executed on the plays that coach called,” Demmin said. “In practice, coach stresses defense. We play harder when we play defense.”
The regular season series between SF State and Cal Poly began on Dec. 29 when the Gators traveled to Pomona, Calif., and won 64-60 thanks to senior guard and co-captain Marquel Hoskins, who scored 21 points.
Perdomo added 11 points and recorded four steals while senior guard and co-captain Phoenix O’Rourke grabbed a team-high seven rebounds in the four-point win. Sophomore guard Mitchel Anderson and senior forward Donelle Booker combined to score 38 points for the Broncos in the home loss.
SF State then played host to the Broncos on Jan. 29 and swept the two-game season series narrowly by the score of 68-66. Anderson and junior forward Dwayne Fells both had 18 points and combined to grab seven of Pomona’s 29 rebounds in the game.
On the other hand, Perdomo once again made his presence known against Cal Poly as he scored a game-high 22 points. O’Rourke also contributed in the two-point win by scoring 15 points on 5 of 7 shooting from beyond the three-point line.
Still, freshmen forward and center Max Fodor, was the star of the game giving his team much needed toughness inside.
Fodor finished with a season-high 10 points on 5-5 shooting and grabbed two defensive rebounds in only six minutes during the first half of the game.