Golden Eagles claw into the final spot of the playoffs

CJ Fisher shoots a free throw, Cal State LA lost to San Francisco State 102-82.

Darwin Lopez, Staff Reporter

Despite the Cal State LA 102-82 loss against San Francisco State on Saturday, the Golden Eagles still managed to outlast Cal State Monterey Bay and Cal State San Marcos for the last playoff spot. 

The Cal State LA loss caused a very nail-biting wait for the team. In order for the team to solidify the spot, they had to rely on Cal Poly Pomona defeating Cal State Monterey Bay. The team waited a little over four hours to discover their fate, and fate was kind as the Broncos defeated the Otters 78-55.  

The Golden Eagles have the same 8-14 conference record as Cal State San Marcos, but the two teams had both beaten each other earlier in the season. The edge that pushed the black and gold into the playoffs was the huge win earlier in the season against Cal State San Bernardino, a team that had beaten Cal State San Marcos twice. Cal State LA’s win over the Coyotes, and the Cougars losses to them, cemented the Golden Eagles in the eighth and final playoff spot. 

Guard Fard Muhammad led Cal State LA with 27 points, and alongside him was guard Khalil Williams, who added 12 points. 

The Golden Eagles faced a scorching hot San Francisco State team on Saturday. The final score of 102-82, was the only time the Gators hit the 100point mark for the entire season. San Francisco State seemed highly motivated because it was their “Senior Night” and the final game of the season.   Cal State LA began the game with a four-point lead, but the defensive intensity of the Gators overwhelmed the Golden Eagles and they surrendered the advantage. Turnovers from the Golden Eagles was the story in the first half. Bad passes were thrown, and a sequence of consecutive travel calls prevented Cal State LA from scoring. 

After being down 16-12 with 9:30 left in the first half, the focus of the Golden Eagles began to sharpen. A three by Muhammad cut the lead to 19-18 with seven minutes to go in the half. After cutting it to a one-point deficit, the game began to go back and forth with the Gators increasing the lead, and the Golden Eagles cutting into it. 

Cal State LA guard Shacquille Dawkins had a chance to tie the game at the half, but strong Gators defense forced the miss; and the Golden Eagles ended the half down 39-37. 

The tide turned at “The Swamp” in the second half, as the Golden Eagles took a 46-45 lead. But the Gators turned it right back with hot shooting from the three-point line. San Francisco State hit back-to-back threes that gave them a 51-46 lead. The game remained close until a barrage of threes from the Gators kept the lead out of reach of the Golden Eagles.

“We tried to get back in it, tried to [force some] scattering. Then we got back in the game, but they hit about four threes in a row, and that cost us. They were on fire and they didn’t miss,” said head coach Jim Saia on the final push from the Gators. 

“It was their senior night, and to their credit, they shot the ball very, very well. All net every shot so at that point you just got to credit them, we had hands up. At the end of the day, its basketball, its a game of runs,” said Muhammad about the Gators shooting in the second half. 

Muhammad was the clear vocal leader, as he huddled up his team, yelling, “We got time! Let’s sit down and defend!”

The Golden Eagles can look ahead to a tough route in the playoffs, as they look to play spoilers against the number one seeded UC San Diego .

“Everybody goes down eventually … Somebody’s gotta take them down; if they’re in our way then that’s who we have to beat,” Muhammad said about the matchup with UC San Diego. 

The Golden Eagles will be a serious underdog against the Tritons. UC San Diego was a staggering 27-1 overall on the season and 21-1 in CCAA play. They are the No. 4 ranked team in the country for NCAA Division II, and will be making a jump to NCAA Division I in the Big West Conference. The Tritons are currently on a program record 19-game winning streak, so it would be a massive upset if the Golden Eagles were to beat them.