Photo courtesy of gotoros.com
By Jeremy Gonzalez, co-sports editor
The CSUDH men’s basketball team celebrated Senior Night before their final home game Saturday, but the celebration–and any momentum gained from an overtime win Thursday night–were spoiled as the Cal State San Bernardino Coyotes defeated them 64-58.
Even with the loss, CSUDH’s thrilling 86-82 overtime victory over No. 25 Cal Poly Pomona Thursday keeps them in playoff contention. The Toros, 8-12 in conference action, are in seventh place, a game ahead of Cal State LA and Cal State Monterey Bay.
If the Toros win either game this weekend on the road at San Francisco State Thursday or Sonoma State Saturday, they would advance to the playoffs for the fourth straight year.
Before Saturday’s game, four seniors (guard Jackson Cascio, guard Wonder Smith, center Andrew Whitsett and team manager Darrion Hatfield) were recognized for their time and dedication to the men’s basketball team. Each senior took center court with family, friends or loved ones to celebrate their final home game.
The Toros (12-14 overall) started three seniors for the final home game: Cascio, Smith and Whitsett. Juniors Colten Kresl and Kaden Bradley joined them in the starting lineup.
Cascio and Kresl immediately got the crowd on its feet by drilling back-to-back three-pointers to give the Toros a 6-0 lead. After exchanging baskets, the Coyotes (15-5 CCAA) went on a 9-0 run midway through the first half to jump ahead 17-10 over the Toros.
CSSB’s defense smothered the Toro offense in the first half, limiting their ability to create space for open shots. The Toros did not look comfortable when they possessed the ball and found themselves down by 13 points at halftime.
The Toros found offensive spark in the second half from Garcia and Kresl, who combined for the team’s first eight points. The team closed the gap to 47-43 with about eight minutes left in the game.
Kresl continued to lead the offense but the comeback ultimately fell short. He finished with 27 points, six rebounds and six assists on the night.
Smith had an off night for the Toros, shooting 3-18 from the field and finished with eight points and six rebounds. The Coyotes had three starters in double-figures.
With the victory, No. 18 Cal State San Bernardino moves into second place in the conference standings, tied with Chico State and Cal Poly Pomona at 15-5. The Coyotes already clinched a playoff spot and a home game in the first round. Cal State Dominguez Hills remains in seventh place at 8-12 after Cal State San Marcos, Cal State LA and Cal State Monterey Bay all lost their games on Saturday as well. The Toros are half a game ahead of the Cougars and one full game ahead of the Golden Eagles and Otters.
The Toros need to win one of its final two road games to ensure its place in the CCAA tournament. The team hits the road next weekend for the final road trip of the regular season.
The men face San Francisco State on Thursday night and Sonoma State on Saturday afternoon.
Both games will be available to watch on the CCAA Network. Thursday night’s tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. and Saturday’s tip-off is scheduled for 3 p.m.