On the most festive weekend of the season, the Sonoma State men’s basketball team celebrated in style. Coming in losers of four out of their last five games, the Seawolves were looking to right the ship for the end of the season stretch. Friday night’s game was against the Golden Eagles of Cal State L.A., who beat SSU by two on Jan. 4. But this time the Seawolves edged out this hard fought rematch, winning 68-64.
The gritty back and forth pace of this game was set early in the first half with no points being scored in the first two minutes. Sonoma State, who was without starting guard Sterling Arterberry due to a hand injury, broke the tie with a three-pointer by James Davis at the 17:55 mark. Maybe having Arterberry, the second leading scorer and rebounder on the team, would have helped SSU establish momentum in this game, but they prevailed in the end anyway. There were eight ties and six lead changes in the first half, which ended at a 28-28 tie.
About 250 local elementary school students were in attendance for the “Ticket to Success” night put on by the athletic department to promote the desire of college attendance in young kids. They were loud and rowdy throughout the whole first half, and a few minutes into the second half. At that time, nearly 9 p.m., it seemed as though bedtime was near when most parents exited with their enthusiastic children. Coincidentally, the gym got quiet, and the Golden Eagles took advantage.
With 11:18 left in regulation, the Seawolves trailed 50-39, their only double-digit deficit of the weekend. They quickly stormed back to take a 54-53 lead on three free throws by Davis with 6:55 left to play. Baskets were traded until junior Mike Harris hit a three to give the Seawolves a 66-64 lead with 1:20 until games’ end. Senior Steve Lackey then hit two free throws with two seconds left to seal the 68-64 victory for SSU. Lackey had a career-high 18 points and added in six rebounds with a team-high five assists.
“I knew that my teammates trusted me with the ball and my coaches let me play, ” said Lackey. “Given that trust gives me even more confidence to go out and do the same thing night in and night out.”
Saturday night’s game saw the Seawolves avenge another one of their 10 single-digit losses from this season. On this year’s “Pack the Den” night, they played the Toros of Cal State Dominguez Hills. White t-shirts with “Noma Nation” printed on them were given out to fans on first-come, first-serve basis to make a whiteout effect. This annual event promoting school spirit had the seats nearly full, and another surprise to add to Sonoma State’s 61-53 win over the Toros. Hall of Fame football player and former SSU star athlete, Larry Allen, was present and applauded throughout the game.
Allen seemed to enjoy the admiration along with the stellar play of the team, who led this game from start to finish. They were once again without Arterberry, and without Davis, who suffered an ankle injury late in Friday night’s game. So head coach Pat Fuscaldo knew he had to rely on guys who weren’t used to getting many minutes to step up and fill the void; and they did just that.
“We were relying on people to play in certain situations where they weren’t used to being in,” said Fuscaldo. “They played solid, the bench did a good job…They helped us maintain the lead.”
Role players, along with the ecstatic crowd, kept the Seawolves energy level up all weekend, guiding them to the weekend sweep.
“I think the crowd did a good job. A lot of people came up to me and said they felt the energy was good.” said Sonoma State’s self-proclaimed #1 fan, Jacob Harris. “I think that the more people stand up and make a difference, the better our team will be. Pack the Den is the craziest, loudest experience that Sonoma State offers.”
Hopefully this momentum carries into next weekend when the Seawolves face teams who also handed them single-digit losses. Friday night they take on 18th-ranked Cal Poly Pomona, and Saturday they play Humboldt State. Both games tip-off at 7:30 p.m. in the Wolves’ Den on campus.