October 1, 2023

Kamille Diaz, sophomore sociology major and guard for the California Baptist University’s women’s basketball team, scored 15 points in the team’s Final Four game against Limestone University on March 25. The Lancers defeated Limestone 85-67 and advanced to the finals, where they will battle the California University of Pennsylvania on March 27 for the NCAA Division II championship title. Photo Courtesy of CBU Athletics

For the first time in program history, both the California Baptist University men’s and women’s basketball teams advanced past the PacWest Tournament to the NCAA Division II West Regional.

As the women traveled north to Anchorage, Alaska, the men stayed local to compete against their opponents at Azusa Pacific University.

Going into the Division II West Regional ranked 21st, the men looked to upset California State University, Chico, Seattle Pacific University and Azusa Pacific University.

The women, unlike the men, were not ranked in the top-25 in the Division II standings and were up against 25th-ranked Hawaii Pacific University, Point Loma Nazarene University Pomona.

For their first game of the NCAA West Regional, the men drew Chico State as their first opponent, the same team they lost to in the first round last year. Coming into this game, the men were determined to achieve a different outcome.

The game was close in the first 10 minutes until Chris Brown, senior sociology major and guard, got CBU their first solid lead.

The win was on the part of both the senior group on the team as well as the younger players. Gelaun Wheelwright, junior sociology major and guard, and Ryan Berg, sophomore business administration major and guard, were both able to help the offense by scoring a handful of 3-pointers.

Throughout the season, the Lancers were never able to lead for an entire game. Rick Croy, head coach of the men’s team, said it was the team’s best competitive performance all season.

Seattle Pacific University was the men’s second opponent for the West Region semifinals. The game was back and forth for the entire 40-minute period, and it came down to the last second.

Coming out of their last 30-second timeout period, the Lancers were down by one point. With only a few seconds left to play, Wheelwright took the opportunity to shoot for a 3-pointer. The ball bounced off the rim, but another Lancer was right beneath the net ready with the assist.

Trevone Williams, junior sociology major and forward, was in the right place at the right time as he picked up Wheelwright’s missed shot and put it in the basket for two points at the final buzzer, 78-77. Coming from behind to win their second game of the West Region, the Lancers were able to go farther than they have previously.

“I was really on Trevone during the game to compete like a lion because when he does, our team is so much stronger. He’s become a real big piece of our program,” Croy said. “And that’s what you do. You have to put yourself in a position to make plays.”

Williams said he felt the pressure to not let his team down from the minute the game started.

“I’ve been in games like this before, and I know one second, one missed box-out can turn into the game. I knew we were going to get a good shot, I just had to put myself in a position to get the rebound in case it doesn’t go in,” Williams said.

The final game for the men was a rematch against rival APU.

While the men fought hard to maintain their slim lead early in the game, they fell behind. Ultimately, the men fell to APU, finishing their season with a final score of 91-79.

The women began their NCAA West Region Performance against 25th-ranked Hawaii Pacific University, the team who won the PacWest Championship a week earlier. CBU we able to dominate from a statistical standpoint throughout the game as four of the women were able individually to put up double digits on the scoreboard. The women finished their first games 77-69.

The women had a less eventful game for their semifinal round against PLNU, a team they played twice during the regular season and once during the PacWest Tournament. Of the three prior matchups against PLNU, only one resulted in a loss for the Lancers, and they came out determined to make sure the record grew in their favor. The game ended with the Lancers up 73-46.

“I would say of all the teams we’ve played all year, that’s the team we know the best,” said Jarrod Olson, head coach of the women’s team. “There couldn’t have been a team we’re more pre- pared to play.”

For their last game, the women went up against the Broncos from Cal Poly Pomona.

Both teams started out slow, but it was a team effort to put the Lancers up early in the game and maintain their lead.

Ultimately the game ended with CBU ahead 81-58. For the first time in program history, CBU’s women’s basketball team won an NCAA Division II West Region championship and advanced to the Elite 8.

Jarrod Olson, head coach of the women’s team, said it was another close game for his team.

“It was another back-and-forth game today,” Olson said. “That’s how basketball goes this time of year. You’re playing really good teams and the margin for error is small.”

The women advanced to the Elite 8 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. They came into the tournament as the only non-ranked team in Division II and went up against the University of New Haven, yielding a final score of 86-77. Their next op- ponent was Limestone College, who the Lancers defeated 85-67. The women next face California University of Pennsylvania Friday night in the final NCAA Division II championship game.

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