Late Sunday night, 20 members of Sonoma State University’s men’s basketball team sat quietly and nervously in The Wolves’ Den conference room, eagerly awaiting the announcement of the NCAA Division II tournament.
One hour later, the noise in that little conference room went from quiet, uncomfortable awkwardness to an eruption of pure joy and relief. It was official — for the first time in 11 years, Sonoma State has been selected to the NCAA tournament. They will play No. 2 seed Hawaii Pacific on Friday.
“It was a celebration,” said All -CCAA guard Jackson Gion when Sonoma State’s name popped up as the No. 7 seed in the West Region. “It was the complete opposite feeling off walking off the court against San Francisco State. It feels like we have a second life.”
Gion said the toughest part about the selection show process was the wait. The Selection Show was originally scheduled to run at 7:30 p.m, but it was pushed back till 8 p.m. Then Sonoma State’s region, the west, was announced last. Gion said he was guessing that if they got in, they would “sneak in” as the eighth seed.
CCAA champion UC San Diego was announced as the No. 1 seed and when the No. 8 seed flashed across the screen Dixie State was the team called. Gion said he started to worry and “honestly felt a little deflated” when they weren’t selected as the 8th seed.
Finally the last team called in the whole selection show was the team from Sonoma State.
Gion said it was a celebration in the room where they were watching the show. Head coach Pat Fuscaldo described the announcement as “a moment of pure elation” for the team.
Gion’s backcourt partner Senior Khalid Johnson said the wait was “the most nervous moment of his life.” and finally when they got announced it was a “just a giant feeling of relief.”
Johnson said what was most important is the chance to play with this specific group of guys again.
“This is the best season of basketball I’ve played in my life,” said Johnson. “It’s just a special group of guys, not because of wins and losses but because of everything we’ve been through as a group and how far we’ve came together.”
Coach Fuscaldo said that this team is different and more resilient than any team he’s coached before. Fuscaldo credits the team’s toughness and resiliency making it this far.
“At one point we were fighting off the intramural volleyball team for practice time in the school rec center,” said Fuscaldo. “With everything we’ve gone through to make it this far and to watch this team grow has been inspiring.” Fuscaldo said that when they got selected for the national tournament had to be “one of the most emotional and satisfactory moments of his career.”
Fuscaldo joked that the only thing that could make this announcement better was if they got to travel to Hawaii to play, “But San Diego isn’t too bad.”
Gion said the celebration is now over and the team has its sights focused on No. 2 seed Hawaii Pacific and its high powered offense that scores over 87 points per game.
Hawaii Pacific is the Pac West Champion and nationally ranked at No. 6 in the country. Hawaii Pacific has three players who average over double digits in scoring and their leading scorer, Chauncey Orr averages 19 points a game and shoots 46 percent from three point range.
Fuscaldo said they will have to slow Hawaii Pacific down on offense and limit their shots to hang with The Sharks fast paced offense.
“As long as we play our game, we will be fine,” said Fuscaldo.
The Seawolves will head to Southern California Wednesday and tip off for the game Hawaii Pacific is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Friday.
Stay tuned to sonomaseawolves.com for live streaming options for the game.