No. 11 Wildcats dismantle the Pioneers during celebration of their five seniors


Javier Hernandez

The Wildcats’ five seniors with their families

Head coach Greg Clink decided to change his starting lineup for the first time this season to the five seniors. This decision paid off, as the No. 11 Wildcats bullied the Pioneers on the way to their sixth straight win. 

Prior to tip off against the Cal State East Bay Pioneers, the Chico State Men’s Basketball team honored the careers of their five seniors: Isaiah Brooks, Joshua Curls, Malik Duffy, Colby Orr and Kevin Warren. 

Warren said it was a bittersweet moment because of all the things he has been through during his time with the program and the team.

“Ever since I have been here something has happened, such as COVID and the fires,” Warren said. “I am very appreciative and thankful for being able to go through this journey with these seniors.”

Duffy said it meant a lot to have a senior night, and a big reason they all returned was to experience this.

“We wanted to experience this night with our coaches, teammates, fans, friends and family,” Duffy said. “It has to end at some point sadly, but we have a postseason run in place.” 

After back-to-back buckets from Curls, the Wildcats capped a 12-4 run during the first five minutes of the first half.

Clink said Curls coming in and contributing immediately is a testament to his character.

“I don’t know if I have ever been around a more selfless guy,” Clink said. “He has bought into his role and shows up as a role model for our younger guys.”

Junior guard Joshua Hamilton sank a pair of free throws to give the Wildcats a 30-19 lead, and the Wildcats would lead by double-digits for the rest of the half. Their biggest lead in the first half was 45-25 after a pair of free throws from Duffy.

The Wildcats headed into half leading 45-27. Their defense held the Pioneers to 36% shooting, and their offense kept a rapid  pace while they shot 50% from the field in the first half.

The second half was dominated by the Wildcats, and their biggest lead was 73-48 thanks to an Orr 3-pointer. 

At the three-minute mark Clink subbed in Warren to get the five seniors out there together. They would last out there for a minute until Click subbed them out. As they were being subbed out, Acker Gym erupted with cheers as Wildcat fans rallied for the players. Brooks said the senior night was nothing short of magical.

“I can’t really put it into words,” Brooks said. “People were telling me to take a moment to realize how much this community and city mean to me.”

The Wildcats ended up defeating the Pioneers 75-52, and ended their season on a six game-winning streak. Brooks said he thinks the team is in a good spot going forward into the postseason.

“One of the good things about our team is that we don’t panic,” Brooks said. “As long as we do what we are supposed to do, we will put ourselves in a position to win.”

They improved to 19-3 on the season and are the third team in Wildcat history to start 19-3 in the  postseason, the first time since the 2015-2016 season.

The Wildcats secured the No. 2 seed in the California Collegiate Athletic Association playoffs, meaning they have a bye. The CCAA tournament is being held in Arcata at Lumberjack Arena, home of the Cal Poly Humboldt Lumberjacks. They will play the winner of the San Marcos and Monterey Bay matchup on March 4 at 5:30 p.m. 

Clink said having the bye is good for the team.

“Getting a first round bye is huge, but we still have to come out and play well,” Clink said. “We get to see the match up that determines our opponent which is huge.”

Warren said the team played well, but it is time to clean up the little things as they head into the postseason.

“Little things can make or break a game,” Warren said. “We’ll go back to the drawing board and access everything.”

The Wildcats have preached defense ever since Clink has been the coach. Warren said their defense is going to take them places. 

“Defense wins games and ultimately championships,” Warren said. “In the postseason the game slows down and our defense is what is going to take us to the promised land.” 

Clink said now that the playoffs are about to start, this is an especially fun time for him.

“Everybody you play is great,” Clink said. “These are the games you don’t have to do much to get your team motivated for.”
Javier Hernandez can be reached at [email protected] or @jhm1226 on Twitter