The Big West Conference basketball tournament in Las Vegas last week was a chance for Long Beach State men’s basketball to show it’s still relevant after a forgettable season, and the Beach succeeded admirably.
LBSU (6-12) struggled to stay on the court all year because of COVID-19 pauses and injuries. The Beach also dropped most of its close games down the stretch and came into the tournament riding a four-game losing streak as the No. 9 seed — the lowest in more than a decade for Coach Dan Monson’s program.
However, freshman Jadon Jones filled in for top scorer Michael Carter III, who was dismissed from the team, and led LBSU to an 85-63 win over No. 8 Cal State Northridge in the first round.
“It’s been a difficult year and we picked the right day in our season so far to have our best game,” Monson said. “Everybody did their job today. It was a fun game to coach because they were prepared.”
Jones, who graduated from St. Anthony High School, recorded his first double double in the win with 19 points and 11 rebounds.
“I’m not the biggest dude out there, but it’s a statement,” Jones said. “I’m not going to let anyone do anything. I’m going to have more heart. Scoring is going to come, but rebounding is effort. I pride myself on being an aggressive effort guy.”
LBSU got hit with more back luck in the quarterfinals against No. 1 seed UC Santa Barbara when starting forward Joe Hampton went down with an injury minutes into the game. The Beach put forth a valiant effort, and was within four points down the stretch, but fell to eventual Big West champion UCSB 95-87.
“My guys deserve a lot of credit for fighting and persevering through a lot of elements right to the end,” Monson said. “I can’t think of another team in my 34 years (of coaching) that I’m any more proud of than this team. Right down to the end they kept fighting and trying to get better. We just never had enough healthy days (of practice) to really get there.”
The wild ride of a season came to an abrupt and heartbreaking end in the quarterfinals of the Big West Tournament as the third-seeded Beach were upset by sixth-seeded Cal Poly. The Beach (12-9) had a one-point lead for the last minute but a Mustang go-ahead shot with 0.6 seconds on the clock ended Long Beach’s season, 61-60.
“I didn’t anticipate this ending,” LBSU coach Jeff Cammon said. “I’m very proud of these young ladies and all the things they pushed through this year. It’s a tough way to lose, but everything is a learning experience. It’s all part of it.”
LBSU senior Naomi Hunt finished with 14 points, while junior Justina King added 13 and junior Imani Lacy chipped in 11.
The Beach won all four of its games last week against San Diego and Loyola Marymount at the LBSU Softball Complex by a combined score of 23-3.
Senior pitcher Kellie White (pictured) was named Big West Pitcher of the Week after she delivered a pair of complete game performances in the circle without giving up an earned run. She struck out 10 in a 2-0 shutout of San Diego, and then allowed one unearned run in a win over LMU. White gave up five hits over 13 innings.
LBSU dropped both of its matches to No. 1 USC and No. 7 LMU last week. Freshman Skyler Germann and redshirt sophomore Alice Pratesi are now 6-2 as a duo on the season and were named Big West Pair of the Week.
LBSU turned in a strong showing at the Bandon Dunes Championship last week and finished just three strokes out of second place. Senior Hunter Epson finished 13th to lead the Beach.
Senior Holland Shourds tied for 26th overall as LBSU placed 15th at the Arizona Wildcat Invitational last week.
The Dirtbags are opening their season this weekend with four games at Hawaii. They return to Bohl Diamond at Blair Field next weekend to host Cal State Northridge. The Dirtbags season preview will be in the Grunion next week.