Victory allows Wildcats to clinch a home playoff game


Griffin Wooldridge

Calvin Geraci jumps high and takes a shot while a Gator defender goes up in attempt to block.

The Chico State men’s basketball team locked up a first-round home game in the CCAA tournament after defeating the San Francisco State Gators by 80-69 Thursday night in Acker Gym.

The Wildcats (19-6) were in a battle at the start of the game. The ball was going back and forth between the two teams, but thanks to a 5-0 run courtesy of an Isaiah Brooks jumper and a 3-pointer from Spencer LaShells mid-way through the first half, the Wildcats were able to build an early cushion.

“Usually in the first half, we have a problem getting going. Sometimes we come out flat, but today we got that 15-point cushion,” Lashells said.

The Gators (9-17) struggled to put points on the board all night. They only had two players score in double digits. The Gators really honed in on the defensive intensity from the Wildcats. Defensive stops make a huge difference in a game, and these helped guide the Wildcats to a victory.

Aggressive Wildcat defense under the net.

“If we get three stops in a row, we have this thing called a kill,” Justin Briggs said. “We have a goal every game to get seven kills. We just kept trying to get defensive stops.”

As the first half came to a close, the Wildcats were in full control. They built a 15-point lead going into the half, but the Gators were not ready to give up.

Kevin Warren dribbles the ball around opposing defenders.

Coming out of the break, the Gators erupted for 12 quick second-half points and limited the Wildcats to five points. Linton Acliese of the Gators was able to keep his team in the game, as he finished with a team-high 25 points.

“I think we got a little complacent,” Lashells said. “We had this 15-point lead and we thought we could lay off them a little bit, but not in this league. They are fighting for a playoff spot.”

Lashells guarded Acliese throughout most of the night.

“He is a really good player,” Lashells said. “What we do with players like him is what we call ‘no catch.’ The goal is to not let him catch it, because those players are automatic when they get the ball in the paint.”

The Wildcats were able to use a balanced attack for most of the game. Four players put up double-digit points. Malik Duffy mentioned that the team kept pushing it offensively.

“Overall, we stuck together as a team,” Duffy said. “We got good shots up, we went to the free throw line a lot, and we got stops. We executed when we needed to.”

Calvin Geraci looks to find an open teammate.

Looking ahead, the Wildcats will take on Sonoma State for the final regular season game on Saturday Feb. 22 at 7:30 p.m. It will also be senior night in Acker Gym as teammates, family and friends will gather to celebrate Justin Briggs and Keith Datu, the two graduating seniors.  

Matthew Wreden can be reached at [email protected] or @MattWreden70 on Twitter.