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’Cats won the West, now what?

Photo credit: Andy Wilhelm

The Chico State men’s basketball team came together at the right time to make an improbable run in the NCAA Championship Tournament.

Faced with the challenge to either rise up and win their region from an unfavorable seed or lose and end their season, the ‘Cats decided to scratch their way to the top. The team played strong on the court and on the bench as their support to put them ahead of the other teams in the tournament.

During the regular season, it looks like when players physically check out of the game, they also mentally check out. But the intensity of the NCAA Tournament completely changed this.

duncan shooting.jpeg
Photo credit: Andy Wilhelm

The Wildcats barely sat in their chairs as they cheered passionately for anyone and everyone in the game at the time.

“The bench definitely helped a lot. You get good vibes when you see your teammates cheering you on. It makes you want to leave it all out there on the court,” said starting forward Marvin Timothy.

The influence of the bench could be seen in Timothy’s play. Even though he was a starter throughout the entire season, he played sparingly and it was rare to see him playing during key moments in the game.

But in the NCAA Tournament he became electric. At one point in the game against the Western Washington University Vikings, after making a turn-around jumper Timothy looked over to the bench, yelled and then smiled as he went back to defense.

This directly affected the flow of the game for Chico State. A team that was struggling to score during the regular season suddenly found their rhythm, hitting most of their open shots and allowing whoever was playing well to the court when they needed to.

Most of the time, the players they looked to were juniors Isaiah Ellis and Corey Silverstrom.

Their performance was nothing short of amazing throughout the tournament. In the first game, Ellis led the squad with 20 points and 10 rebounds. In the second game Silverstrom led with 17 points.

Photo credit: Andy Wilhelm

In the third game they combined for 55 of the team’s 95 total points and led the team to its second trip to the Elite Eight in four seasons. Ellis has been named the most outstanding player of the tournament.

Ellis and Silverstrom were roommates during their first year at Chico State, and redshirted together during the year the Wildcats won the west region.

“Corey is one of the closest brothers that I have on this team,” Ellis said. “And winning the west region was something that we’ve been talking about since the first team did it. But we want more than that, we want to win the whole thing.”

“A lot of people have been telling me to lead this team all the way, but we have so many weapons on this team that I don’t need carry us,” Ellis said.

“We have so many athletes that can go off at any time for us, I just know that if this family keeps playing the way we are. We can do great things.”

With a clear identity and a newfound positive energy, the ’Cats are primed to make an even deeper run into the NCAA Championship Tournament.

Patrick Pace can be reached at [email protected] or @patpacesports on Twitter.

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