PHOTOS courtesy of Chico State Athletics at ChicoWildcats.com and Jason Halley
There will be four teams playing for two separate California Collegiate Athletic Association Conference Tournament Championships today and you can make the argument the four best defensive teams in the men’s and women’s ranks will be participating.
Today’s first CCAA conference title tilt between the Dominguez Hills and East Bay women features the co-conference champion Toros versus the surging Pioneers from Hayward. Dominguez Hills defensive discipline and attention to detail on the defensive end makes them a tough match-up. East Bay has put themselves in position to win a conference title with guts, guile and stellar play from their veteran leaders. The Pioneers have refused to give in, especially when down by 16 against perennial power Cal Poly Pomona on Thursday afternoon. East Bay also showed some big-time toughness after letting a 20-point lead slip away against Humboldt State, only to dig deep and pull out a 73-67 semi-final win on Friday.
It sets up a fun match-up tonight between hard-as-nails Toros and the magic-carpet riding Pioneers in a battle for the women’s CCAA Tournament Title and an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Dominguez Hills will be playing next week in the NCAA’s, but East Bay must win to get to the Big Dance. Game time is tonight at 5:05pm at Stockton Arena in Stockton.
The men’s match-up pits the two best teams on the men’s side all season long. The regular season champion Chico State Wildcats take on the Cal Poly Pomona Broncos. Chico took both games from Pomona this year, but both match-ups were clinics in how to play defense. These two squads pride themselves on defending and making it hard for you to score. Pomona, under 15-year head coach Greg Kamansky, has been the envy of the nation on the defensive end for the last decade. Pomona knows exactly what they are and they do it better than anyone. When they assert their defensive will, they are very tough to handle. They force tough shots, they rebound and they control pace with their match-up zone.
The Broncos were down six late in their semi-final contest with Humboldt and then just ran away from the Jacks. The constant defensive pressure finally wore down Humboldt and led to easy buckets for Pomona as they won going away.
Chico State was locked into another epic match-up with Stanislaus. The Wildcats were playing the Warriors for the 7th time in 16 months and for the third time in the post-season. Chico was also down six at the 10 minute mark and went to their zone which flummoxed Stanislaus. Chico finished the game on a 21-6 run and beat their old Northern California Athletic Association (NCAC) rival 72-60. It was the 15th win in the last 16 games for the regular season CCAA champ.
Chico’s strength is also their defense. While not as renowned as Pomona yet, Chico is building quite a reputation as a team willing to get physical and also get into you defensively. The Wildcats bring great length to the interior of their defense. They also do a good job holding teams to one shot. Usually that shot is challenged with pressure and a hand in the face. The commitment to defense by this Wildcat program under head coach Greg Clink has been a methodical climb to regional prominence.
The four teams vying for CCAA conference titles today will not make it easy on you. They all like to score. They all LOVE to play defense. Offense is sexy. Defense is hard. These teams didn’t start playing defense this week. They started playing defense the second their season ended last year……and that is why they are here today.