Sonoma State University men’s basketball team nearly pulled off another upset in round two against UC San Diego, just three days after the Seawolves proved they could ball with one of the best in the league.
The battle against the Tritons was the first postseason berth for the Seawolves in their past two seasons.
The competition was fierce at the RIMAC Arena on Tuesday night, with both teams battling for a spot in the semifinals. The Seawolves played confidently, but San Diego was fighting for redemption, taking the 5-point lead inthe bitter 71-66 Seawolf loss.
The Tritons secured the advantage throughout the first half of the game, but Sonoma kept up with the help of the team’s solid defense and key offensive plays by Luke Cochran, James Davis, and Michael Avery.
James Davis tied the second half with 18:23 left to play, but the vengeful Tritons went off on a 10-0 run against the Seawolves, putting the score at 37-27.
“At that time, I was thinking that we had to find a way to score,” said Davis, “Our defense ranked No. 10 in the country in points allowed, but our offense sat at No. 281 in points per game out of about 300 teams. All season scoring has been our issue.”
Avery launched back into the game, breaking the Triton streak with five points right off the bench.
With three minutes left in the game, Davis hit the 3-pointer that put the Seawolves at a 1-point advantage, 49-48.
Avery emphasized the lead with another 3-pointer, but the Tritons fought to tie the game at 53 points, just before fouling Davis at the 3-point line.
Davis drained all three free throws, putting the Seawolves up 56-53 with only two seconds left in the game.
Although the odds were stacked against the Tritons, they managed an impressive inbound play to the 3-point line to tie the game and send them into overtime.
Sonoma State took the lead in OT, but the Tritons went on a 9-0 run with 1:52 left in the game to pull away to a 5- point victory.
“In OT we could’ve done a better job on the defensive end getting stops,” said Ahern, reflecting on Tuesday’s game.
Although seniors Davis and Ahern weren’t able to end their collegiate careers with a win, they were selected to the 2015-16 California Collegiate Athletic Association Men’s Basketball All-Conference team.
Davis received a Second Team nod, while Ahern was an Honorable Mention.
“It feels good to be recognized as one of the better players in the league,” said Davis, “but I think this is a team award. Without my teammates I wouldn’t be able to get this acknowledgement.”
Davis finishes his notable career as the team’s leading scorer for two years in a row, averaging 13.9 points per game this season.
As a junior, Davis was a First-Team All-CCAA selection, and received recognition as the Sonoma State Male Student-Athlete of the Year.
Ahern, Sonoma State’s second-leading scorer at 11.4 points per game, is also the league’s second best free throw shooter at 87.6 percent.
“I feel honored to be recognized on the CCAA All-Conference team. It wouldn’t have been possible without my coaches or teammates,” Ahern said.
What’s next for these star athletes?
“I’ll be graduating in May with a degree in marketing and would like to pursue a career in sales,” Ahern said.
“It’s bittersweet. I’ve played basketball my whole life so for it to come to an end is sad, but I am also ready to move on with life outside of playing basketball,” said Davis, “My plan is to get a job and start my career. Maybe someday get into coaching.”
This is the first time the Seawolves finished the season with a winning record in their past three seasons. They cap off their 2015-16 season with an overall record of 14-13 (9-11 CCAA).