Tritons Fall Short in CCAA Final

Photo by Megan Lee / UCSD Guardian
Photo by Megan Lee / UCSD Guardian

Despite their defeat, UCSD hopes to get selected for the NCAA West Regionals.

Photo by Megan Lee
Photo by Megan Lee

Coming off one of the most exciting finishes in recent memory, the UCSD men’s basketball team certainly had momentum on its side. But to win the California Collegiate Athletic Association tournament, the Tritons needed more than just momentum. Unfortunately, even after a strong win against Cal Poly Pomona, the Tritons eventually fell to Humboldt State in the championship game.

Game One:

Riding euphorically off of their riveting overtime victory against Sonoma State, the Tritons hoped to come away with a victory without the need of any late-game heroics. The team accomplished just that thanks to their strong start against Cal Poly Pomona on Friday night. After sending the Broncos to the free-throw line fifteen seconds into the game, the Triton offense kicked into gear, going on a 9–0 run to lead 9–1 just four minutes into the game. While the Broncos stayed within striking distance for the entire game, the Tritons never allowed themselves to lose control of the game, playing like the dominant team the Tritons were known as for most of the season.

They held the lead in the first half in large part due to their tough defense, harassing the Bronco offense into shooting only nine of 25 overall and committing seven turnovers, which the Triton offense turned into 12 points. Regardless of that, however, the offense had a bit of a rough outing from the three-point line, converting only four of their 16 attempts from downtown. Still, the Tritons were able to knock down 12 of their 27 overall attempts in the half, leading them to a 32–24 advantage at the half.

But, with the start of the second half, the match would turn into a shootout as the two teams matched each other offensively for the final 20 minutes. The Broncos finally found their stroke, and their shooting improved to a solid 13 of 28 for the half. However, thanks to the Tritons’ improved three-point shot, and ability to consistently get to the free-throw line, they were able to match the Broncos’ 41 points with 40 points of their own. The Tritons then held on, winning 72–65.

Leading the team in scoring was sophomore guard Anthony Ballestero, who had a career night with 16 points and three rebounds. Just short of Ballestero’s game-high output was senior forward Drew Dyer, who rounded out the game with an impressive stat-line of 15 points from five three-pointers, seven rebounds and five assists. Adding to the team’s stellar performance was junior guard Adam Klie who earned himself yet another double-double with an impressive 13 points and 10 rebounds.

With the win, the second-seed Tritons knocked the third-seed Broncos out of the CCAA tournament.

Game Two:

Unfortunately for the Tritons, their two strong tournament wins would not help them against Humboldt State on Saturday night. In their third matchup of the season, the Tritons looked to settle the score against the Lumberjacks; a win would have meant winning the season series against their CCAA rivals, and more importantly, winning the CCAA tournament.

But those aspirations would soon be crushed, as the Lumberjacks took control early with three three-pointers during the first six minutes. Soon afterwards, Humboldt State would take its lead to double digits and control the game for the rest of the night after closing out the half on a three-pointer to take a 39–27 lead.

Things didn’t get any better for the Tritons in the second half, where the Lumberjacks would strengthen their hold on the game, leading by as many as 18 points with 6:55 remaining in the game. Of course, the Tritons wouldn’t go down without a fight; they were able to cut the deficit down to nine points, in large part due to freshman center Chris Hansen, who scored 21 of his 27 points in the second half. Despite the late run, the Lumberjacks would once again regain control and go on to win the game 80–68.

Even with the rough night overall, the game still had its bright spots. Hansen’s 27 points off of seven of 10 shooting overall and perfection off of 13 attempts at the free-throw line were the most scored by anyone on either team. Dyer and Klie also had solid showings offensively, scoring 13 and 12 points respectively, while sophomore guard Grant Jackson added another 11 points. Dyer also led the team with seven rebounds and five assists. Their efforts were not enough to keep up with the scorching-hot Lumberjacks, which shot a stellar 26 of 44 overall and hit nine three-pointers.

“I think today was a little bit more about how they played well, versus some of the things we did,” said UCSD Head Coach Eric Olen in his postgame press conference. “They really deserved it.”

The Tritons will find out if they qualify for the NCAA West Regional on March 6 at 7:30 p.m.

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