In what has been an unpredictable California Pacific Conference season so far, last week's matchups illustrated how this year the only certainty in the conference is uncertainty. From upsets to buzzer-beaters, the Cal Pac is showcasing a much better balanced field of competition than ever before. La Sierra, winless in its first nine conference games, went on the road and beat a full Simpson team that, two days earlier, upset Antelope Valley without its two top scorers in the lineup. Two days later, UAV's Franky Teran nailed a jumper from beyond the arc to edge Pacific Union by one. Benedictine-Mesa, sitting atop the Cal Pac standings from the start, lost two tough road games to slip into second place, a half game behind Cal Maritime. UC Merced, battling for a playoff spot, saw its chanced improve by surprising BenU on Thursday, but then slipped after dropping a low-scoring contest at home against Embry-Riddle.
Thursday, February 2
CAL MARITIME 83, EMBRY-RIDDLE 69: The Keelhaulers came out firing--and connecting--from the 3-point line en route to the win over the Eagles in Vallejo, Calif. CSUM, now 7-2 in the Cal Pac and 15-10 overall, put up 40 treys in the contest that they led from start to finish. The Keelhaulers pushed the lead to as much as 25, but, as they have done all season, the Eagles kept unrelenting pressure on CSUM and cut the lead in half mid-way through the second half. The Keelhaulers had five players hit double figures in scoring, led by Justin Eisen's 18 points. Eisen netted five threes in the game. Daniel Radford and Phil Randles, both of whom had three treys, finished with 17 and 12 points, respectively. Mike Meserole and Brayden Morse each added 10 points. Greg Edwards led ERAU with 17 points, nine coming from his 11 free throw attempts, and Sean Wood poured in 13 for the Eagles, now 2-8 in conference and 5-18 on the season.
UC MERCED 72, BENEDICTINE-MESA 70: With the score tied at 70 with two seconds left on the clock, Derek E'denchukwu stepped to the free throw line and hit both freebies to lift the Bobcats over the Redhawks in Merced, Calif. The two teams played each other closely, and UCM entered the halftime break up one at 31-30. The lead exchanged hands a few more times in the first few minutes of the second half until Branson Garcia came off the bench to hit a two-pointer and then a three, to give UCM a lead it would ultimately never surrender. Garcia capped the run by draining a pair of threes to push that lead all the way to nine points with 7:34 remaining. The Bobcats needed every one of those points as the Redhawks made a run late in the game. With 2:15 left, BenU reeled off a 6-0 run to tie the game at 70-70. The Redhawks had the ball with seconds remaining, but the Bobcat defense forced a tough shot, Ronnie Kozak came up with the rebound with eight seconds left, kicked it ahead, and eventually found its way into the hands of E'denchukwu, who was fouled to set up the winning free throws. Cole Taira finished the night with a team-high 16 points while adding four assists. Kozak was just short of a double-double, finishing with 11 points and nine rebounds. Garcia added 13 points, going 3-for-4 from long-range. Ryan Haywood chipped in 10 points for the Bobcats, who are now 4-5 in Cal Pac play and 6-15 overall. BenU, still on top of the conference standings at 8-2 and 13-10 overall, had three players in double figures. Monnard Brown had a game-high 20 points, Gus Leon added 12, and Robert Kincade tossed in 11 points while handing out seven assists.
SIMPSON 87, ANTELOPE VALLEY 81: The Red Hawks took down the Pioneers in Redding, Calif., despite not having three of their five starters available. Josh Brakkee, Aron Rudd, and Joseph Bosetti all sat out the game but watched as their teammates provided some crucial minutes from the bench and improve to 4-6 in conference and 5-18 overall. Sean Smith led all players with 26 points and both Justin Beskeen and Alex Huerta added 16. Smith went 8-for-12 from the floor, including 3-of-5 from beyond the arc, and hit all seven of his free throws. Huerta, who was also 8-of-12 from the field, handed out five assists and grabbed seven rebounds--both team highs. UAV, now 6-3 in the Cal Pac and 11-10 overall, had a 24-point effort from Franky Teran, Jonathon Parker added 16 points and 14 boards, and Miles Nolen-Webb contributed 13 points and five assists.
Saturday, February 4
ANTELOPE VALLEY 85 PACIFIC UNION 84: The UAV Pioneers got a clutch 3-pointer from Franky Teran to nip the PUC Pioneers in Angwin, Calif. UAV, now alone in third place at 7-3 in conference and 12-10 overall, overcame an early surge by PUC to come back for the victory. Behind an energetic crowd and its full-court pressure, PUC was able to climb to an early 17-6 lead, and that margin ballooned to 15 with 6:36 left in the half. But UAV chipped away at the lead and cut it seven at the break. In the final 20 minutes, the two teams showed just why they are top two scoring offenses in the Cal Pac. Whenever UAV cut the lead and appeared ready to move ahead, PUC answered. With 2:49 remaining, UAV trailed by eight when Miles Nolen-Webb started the rally with an old fashioned three-point play to move within five. At the 1:09 mark, UAV dialed up a key defensive stop that led to Nolen-Webb getting fouled in transition. After making it a two-point game with the pair of free throws, both teams came up empty the next couple possessions. With an opportunity to put the game out of reach late in the game, PUC missed the front end of a 1-and-1, but recovered the errant shot and drew another foul from UAV. Once again PUC missed its opportunity, and this time UAV rebounded and called for a timeout. Down two with just seconds left, Steve Bush penetrated the lane and kicked out to Teran, who nailed the trey with four seconds left on the clock. Nolen-Webb had an outstanding game, finishing with 25 points on 8-of-12 shooting, including 14 points in the last five minutes of the game. Jayson Marquez led four PUC double-digit scorers with 15 points. Rae Hubbard added 13, and Devon Pinnock and Greg Brown each had 11 for PUC, which is now 6-4 in the Cal Pac and 10-6 overall.
CAL MARITIME 95, BENEDICTINE-MESA 79: The Keelhaulers used a strong offensive attack to defeat the Redhawks in Vallejo, Calif. The win moves CSUM, 8-2 in the Cal Pac and 16-10 overall, into sole possession of first place and marks the team's fifth straight victory. As has been the case during their conference run, Daniel Radford and Travis Arenas led the Keelhaulers' offense. Radford led the team in scoring with a 30-point outburst, shooting an efficient 8-of-13 from the floor, including 3-of-4 from 3-point territory. Arenas carried the load on the backboards as he finished with a season high 20 rebounds, seven on the offensive end. In addition to his rebounding total, Arenas scored 17 points on the night. Justin Eisen also scored in double figures, finishing with 17 as he knocked down five from beyond the arc. BenU's Robert Kincade had an outstanding performance, totaling 28 points, Joe Baldi added 11 points, and Carter Aby had nine rebounds for the Redhawks, now 8-3 in conference and 13-11 overall.
EMBRY-RIDDLE 50, UC MERCED 42: In a game where neither team ever really got their offense going, the Eagles topped the Bobcats in Merced, Calif. ERAU shot just 36 percent from the floor, but UCM was even colder, connecting on just 28 percent of its shots. The Eagles led by one at the half, 20-19. The offenses heated up a bit in the second half as ERAU hit 45 percent and UCM upped its percentage to 35. Greg Edwards was the only Eagle to reach double figures, finishing with 13 points as well as four steals. The Bobcats had two players score 10 points in the game--Matt Laflin and Ronnie Kozak. Kozak recorded a double-double by pulling down 13 rebounds. ERAU is now 3-8 in the Cal Pac and 6-18 overall. UCM, fighting for a slot in the postseason tournament, saw those hopes dim by falling to 4-6 in conference and 6-16 overall.
LA SIERRA 75, SIMPSON 69: The Golden Eagles earned their first win of the Cal Pac season by leading from start to finish against the Red Hawks in Redding, Calif. LSU led by as much as 17 in the second half, but SU cut that to four with just 3:00 left in the game. The Golden Eagles, however, were able to fend off the rally and hold on for the win that improved them to 1-8 in conference and 2-21 overall. Isaac Deese erupted for 35 points to lead LSU. Deese hit 11-of-19 from the floor, including 6-of-9 from beyond the arc. Kyle Hamilton tossed in 13 points, Eduardo Gomez del Casal added a double-double with 12 points and 10 boards, and Reynaldo Solorzano just missed his double-double with 10 points and nine rebounds. The Red Hawks received a double-double from Joseph Bosetti, who tallied 21 points and 11 rebounds to go along with five assists. Jalen Cooper and Josh Brakkee finished with 12 and 11 points, respectively for SU, now 4-7 in conference and 5-19 overall.
Sunday, February 5
PACIFIC UNION 79, LA SIERRA 60: Playing about 13 hours after registering their first win of the Cal Pac season, the Golden Eagles kept it close for the first 20 minutes but eventually were overrun by the Pioneers in Angwin, Calif. PUC built a five-point lead at the break, but picked up the pressure at both ends and ran away with a 40-point second half while limiting LSU to just 26 points. Ben Jazuk led all scorers with 23 points and added a team-high eight rebounds to lead PUC, now 7-4 in conference and 11-6 overall. Jayson Marquez chipped in 13 points, and LeRoy Anderson finished with 12 as well as eight rebounds. LSU, now 1-9 in the Cal Pac and 2-22 on the season, got a 13-point performance from Kyle Hamilton. Isaac Deese tossed in 12 points, and Eduardo Gomez del Casal recorded his third consecutive double-double with 11 points and 14 rebounds.