Men’s basketball season comes to bitter end at the hands of St. Mary’s Gaels It took overtime, but the Gaels defeated the Toreros 69-66 in the semifinals of the West Coast Conference Championship
By Alex Bullock
The men’s basketball team’s season came to an end on March 9 after a 69-66 overtime loss to the St. Mary’s College Gaels in the semifinals of the West Coast Conference Championship in Las Vegas.
The Toreros reached the semifinal game after defeating the Pepperdine University Waves and the Brigham Young University Cougars.
In the game against the Gaels, the Toreros jumped out to an early 20-6 lead before the Gaels fought back to trail by just three points at halftime with the score at 29-26.
The Toreros gave up the lead for the first time in the game with just under five minutes to play at 53-52.
The game looked to be headed in the direction of a Torero victory after a three-pointer from senior forward Ken Rancifer and two free throws from redshirt sophomore forward John Sinis that gave the Toreros a three point lead with under a minute remaining.
However, the Gaels’ senior guard and all-time leading scorer Matthew Dellavedova converted a three-pointer from the corner in the waning seconds of the game to send it to overtime.
The momentum seemed to have turned in favor of the Gaels after Dellavedova’s three-pointer, as they were able to control the overtime period and end up with the 69-66 overtime victory.
The Gaels were defeated by the national No. 1 Gonzaga University Bulldogs in the final of the WCC tournament on March 11 65-51. The Bulldogs are hoping to earn the overall No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
The loss to the Gaels brings an end to an up and down season for the Toreros who finished 16-18 overall and 7-9 in the WCC. A five game winning streak early in the season was cancelled out by a five game losing streak near the end.
The Toreros fared well at home this season, going 10-6 at the Jenny Craig Pavilion compared to a 6-12 record on the road.
These records, along with some other areas where the Toreros have room to improve, seem to be a product of the team’s youth.
Although the Toreros are losing three impactful seniors in Rancifer, forward Chris Manresa and guard Cameron Miles, they are returning just one other upperclassmen, junior forward Dennis Kramer, from their main playing rotation.
This means that the core of next year’s team will be experienced with room to improve over the next few seasons.
Sophomore guards Johnny Dee and Chris Anderson will be back and more experienced, and the departure of Manresa will allow freshman forward-center Jito Kok to see more playing time.
As a freshman this year, Kok tied the USD record for blocks in a season with 55.
One area where the Toreros need to improve for next season is simple: free throw shooting. As a team, the Toreros shot just 67 percent from the free throw line this season.
The Toreros were in the top one third in the nation in number of free throws attempted this season, yet they were near the bottom third in free throw percentage. In fact, the only returning player with a free throw percentage over 75 percent is Dee who shoots free throws at an impressive 88 percent.
The Toreros are talented on offense, especially with their guard play, but in order to finish on the right side of .500, they need to take care of the basketball but cutting down their number of turnovers.
Along the same line of free throws, the Toreros leave a lot of possible points unscored due to missed free throws and lost offensive possessions.
In the semifinals of the WCC tournament the Toreros put themselves in position to defeat their opponent, but the more-experienced Gaels were able to come out with the victory. They just happened to shoot better than the Toreros from the free throw line and committed fewer turnovers.
Additionally, another scorer must emerge in order to take some of the scoring load off of Dee’s shoulders.
Against the Gaels, Dee scored 18 points, but 13 of those came in the first half as the Gaels clamped down on the Toreros’ leading scorer in the second.
If next season’s Toreros convert more of their free throws, cut down on turnovers and show a stronger commitment to defense, they will be better equipped to put away the close games that they were unable to win this season.