It was a great New Year’s Day for the Long Beach State men’s and women’s basketball programs. After both persevering through COVID-19-related pauses, both teams pulled out tight Big West wins over CSU Bakersfield.
Long Beach State Men 90, CSU Bakersfield 89 (OT)
The Long Beach State men’s team (2-2, 1-0) had been shut down for two weeks after a member of the team’s staff tested positive for COVID-19. The whole program had to quarantine for 15 days over the holiday break, and they played Friday afternoon’s game in the Walter Pyramid after having just a few practices back together–and missing two frontcourt starters.
Somehow they gutted out a one-point overtime win after some improbable turns and big games from Michael Carter III, Isaiah Washington, and freshman Jadon Jones.
“I’m proud of my guys and I’m happy for them,” said head coach Dan Monson. “I know everybody is going through COVID and adversity but this team has dealt with a lot–more than their fair share. But they didn’t use that as an excuse.”
With both Chance Hunter and Romelle Mansel sidelined with an injury, the team was banged up and shorthanded. With another three of the team’s nine players fouling out of the game, it felt like a war of attrition, and Monson admitted his team was hanging on by its nails.
“If we had the ball down two at the end of overtime we would’ve tried to win it with a three, I don’t think we could have survived another OT,” he said.
After leading for most of the game, it looked like Long Beach State’s rebounding woes would prove fatal. The tem was outrebounded 50-25 in the game but shot it well enough to overcome the 23 additional shot attempts that offensive boards created for Bakersfield. With 1.6 seconds on the clock, though, Bakersfield went up on a put-back dunk, in what looked like a game-ending highlight. Instead, Monson drew up a play on the clipboard that called for Shaden Knight to try and draw a charge while setting a screen on the inbounds play–a play that, remarkably, worked to perfection, as Knight drew the foul 90+ feet away from the basket.
“We haven’t practiced it, it’s in the playbook but we haven’t had the practices for situational work,” said Monson. “We told the refs beforehand that’s what we were trying to do and they had the guts to call it.”
Knight, despite having only made one free throw in his brief collegiate career to that point, sank both FTs to tie it and sent it to overtime. Washington scored nine of his 18 points in the extra period, and Michael Carter III (25 points) continued his excellent game as well. Jones, making his first start, scored 18 points as well.
“The biggest thing in those situations is your guys believing the game isn’t over,” said Monson. “I have a lot of respect for these guys…none of them have tested positive, somebody on our staff did and they had to quarantine for 15 days over Christmas break and couldn’t see their families. It’s easy to say ‘Yeah I love basketball’ but you don’t know what you’ll do until you’re in that situation. They came out to win today.”
The shorthanded Beach team will have a quick turnaround and host Bakersfield again at 4 p.m. on Saturday.
Long Beach State Women 61, CSU Bakersfield 57
The Long Beach State women (4-1, 3-0) remained undefeated in Big West play with a tight road win at Bakersfield. The team was tied with a few minutes left to play when Justina King, Ma’Qhi Berry, and Jasmine Hardy took over and pushed them across the finish line.
Hardy led the way with 17 points, while King had 12 points.
The Beach will be in action again on Saturday at Bakersfield at 4 p.m.
VIDEO: Long Beach State vs. CSU Bakersfield, Men’s Basketball
PHOTOS: Long Beach State vs. CSU Bakersfield Men’s Basketball