The Cal State Stanislaus men's basketball team's amazing run came to a shocking end as Chico State edged the Warriors, 81-80, Monday night at the NCAA West Region Championship game.
Amir Carraway's two free throws with 1.8 seconds left gave Chico State the school's first ever NCAA West Region Championship and sent the Wildcats to the promise land for Division II Basketball — the Elite 8.
The seventh seeded Warriors did so many things right in a game they led by as many as 18 points, but for the first time this postseason they were out-rebounded.
Chico State's final rebound led to the demise of Stanislaus' hot streak, which ended with nine consecutive games. CCAA Champion Cal State Stanislaus ends the season 23-9.
"We don't get too many opportunities at these things and when you get the chance you have to take it," head coach Larry Reynolds said of winning the West and moving on to the Elite Eight. "I have to take the responsibility of it not coming to fruition."
That rebound by Carraway came after a Jordan Semple missed free throw and Carraway nailed both shots to lift the Wildcats.
The play before that sequence also didn't help the Warriors. Sam Marcus' outlet pass down the court to Rob Walters was taken away and miscommunications caused Walters to reach-in to foul Semple at half court, allowing Chico State to get to the line with about four seconds left.
"Rob was behind him and I was yelling 'guard him', because I didn't want him to run free, but the miscommunications was that he thought I said 'foul him'," Reynolds said.
"It was loud and I couldn't hear so I was watching coach's hands and reading his lips," Walters said. "Like (coach) said, it was a miscommunication."
But the game didn't have to come down to those two Chico State possessions.
The Warriors were hitting on all cylinders and led 58-40 when Clinton Tremelling nailed a three-pointer with 13:33 to play. After a second 18-point lead, at 12:09, on a pair of Shey Mataele free throws, an 8-0 run by Chico State gave the Wildcats some hope. The run was highlighted by Semple's three-pointer that cut the CSUS lead down to 10.
Still Stanislaus held a 13-point, 74-61, lead with 2:48 left. And the vocal Warrior Nation cheering section were chanting its signature "I believe that we will win" cheer.
Then things went downhill. Another run by Chico, this time a 16-5 surge in the next two minutes made it a two-point game after a Sean Park layup.
The Warriors missed three of four free throw chances in the final 30 seconds to open the doors for Chico State. The Wildcats took it, converting on that Park layup and four of five free throws with four from Carraway, who was just 2-of-5 on the line prior.
"We just didn't get the job done and you have to give credit to Chico State. They did a good job and held their poise and came back," Reynolds added.
Parker finished with 19 points and Carraway had 16.
Taylor Bell's breakout performance this weekend would have earned him the tournament's most outstanding player award. He ended up with 15 points on Monday to close out the tournament with 55 points.
Chris Read scored 14 and Rob Walters had 8 points and 11 rebounds. Marcus Bell was held to 4 of 13 shooting with eight points and five rebounds.
Chico State advances to the Elite 8, March 26-29, in Evansville, Ind., and will face Southeast regional winner, either Montevallo or South Carolina-Aiken.