Best in the West: Men’s Basketball Captures PLNU’s First NCAA West Regional Championship

In Latest News, News, Sports by Griffin Aseltine

In perhaps the most significant game ever played in the Golden Gymnasium, it felt as if the Saint Martin’s Saints would never go away, as they found a way to cut the PacWest champion Sea Lions’ slimming lead down to just four points with nearly 15 seconds remaining. But on the Saints’ next possession, a three-point attempt was missed and senior forward Preston Beverly of the Sea Lions secured the critical rebound with less than seven seconds left.

It was at that moment when the majority of the sold-out crowd of 1,828 applauded and cheered in celebration, knowing that history was about to be made on March 18, 2019. After two free throw attempts by Beverly and one final desperation heave by the Saints, the Sea Lions sealed the 60-54 victory to capture the NCAA Division II West Regional title, the first-ever by any PLNU sports team.

“Congratulations to Saint Martin’s on a fantastic season,” said third-year Sea Lions Head Coach Ryan Looney. “They’ve got great players, they’re extremely well-coached, have a ton of toughness. They obviously created a lot of adversity for us in the game, and I’m really proud of our guys… they were mentally tough enough to battle through all of it.”

To put Monday night’s victory into perspective, there are three conferences in the West Region—the PacWest, the Great Northwest Athletic, and the California Collegiate Athletic Association. These conferences combine for a total of 36 teams in the West Region. The Sea Lions were the one team to come out on top.

“For me, coaching Division II, we’ve been in a lot of these tournaments. This is the first time we’ve gotten over the hump,” said Looney. “When we first came and started recruiting all these guys, there wasn’t necessarily a ton of rich tradition in Division II with Point Loma basketball. I’m thankful to all of them because they believed in the vision I tried to set, and they come and just work at it everyday… I’ll forever be grateful to all of them.”

Junior guard Daulton Hommes, who was named the Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA West Regional, led the team with 25 points, two steals and 38 minutes on the floor. His most notable contribution of the night was scoring four critical three-pointers in the final twelve minutes of the game, including a score with about four minutes remaining to give the Sea Lions a 54-48 lead. From that point on, the lead was never cut to a one-possession deficit.

“I’ve got to give credit to my teammates,” said Hommes. “Even during timeouts, all of my teammates are telling me ‘keep shooting.’ I really just went out there and let it fly.”

The energy from the crowd—decked out primarily in green and gold—was another key factor mentioned by Hommes, describing it as “awesome” and something that the team “fed off of.” Looney mentioned that the crowd was not only present on Monday, but throughout the NCAA West Regional playoffs.

“I was impressed, not just tonight, but all three nights we played in this tournament,” said Looney. “Our campus, this community, really rallied behind the team. And truly, these guys deserved it. They worked every day since we started conditioning in the fall…Our players worked for that environment. They deserved it.”

Last Friday, the Sea Lions defeated Western Oregon 70-58 in the opening round with the help of a combined 38 points by Hommes and Beverly. On Saturday, in one of the most impressive victories of the entire season, PLNU defeated UC San Diego 73-50 behind Hommes’ double-double (27 points, 11 rebounds) and a dominant second-half effort.

After a conference title and now a regional title, it may seem as if the story of the 2018–19 men’s basketball team has reached a satisfying conclusion. As hard as it may be to believe, there is still one last tournament to be played. Winning the West Regional means that the Sea Lions will be playing in the NCAA Division II Elite Eight in Evansville, Indiana. Regardless of what happens, the 2018–19 men’s basketball season will forever be one to remember in PLNU sports history. But the team hopes to continue its current momentum for as long as possible.

“We’re definitely not done yet,” said senior center Ziggy Satterthwaite, who scored 15 points during Monday night’s showdown. “Just one day at a time, one practice at a time, one game at a time.”

The remaining seven NCAA Division II Regional championships were played on Tuesday. The Elite Eight will begin next Wednesday. Details, including match-ups, times and where to watch online, will be provided on plnusealions.com as well as next week’s edition of The Point.

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