Think of the 10-3 start to Cal State Stanislaus’ men’s basketball season as money in the bank.
Then, think of the Warriors’ last five games as a spending spree.
Stanislaus was 10-3 and tied for first place in the California Collegiate Athletic Association after its 53-48 victory over Dominquez Hills on Jan. 30. The Warriors were riding high and had visions of a first-round bye in the upcoming conference tournament.
But with their only victory in five games since then a 67-66 double overtime home victory against UC San Diego, the Warriors – instead of looking for that bye – are merely starting to check Google Maps for the best path to the CCAA Tournament Mar. 5-7 at Stockton Arena.
“The team attitude is good,” said coach Larry Reynolds. “We are little disappointed we can’t jump into one of those top two seeds, but everybody is willing to pay the price to get the third seed and deal with the rest as the games come along.”
The reality is that the capital earned in January is paying dividends. Heading into this weekend’s games at San Francisco State and Sonoma State, Stanislaus is in position – because of that fast start – where it could have a postseason ticket punched as early as Saturday night.
Here’s how the CCAA breaks down with four games remaining: Chico State and Cal Poly Pomona are tied for first place at 14-4 and have hammerlocks on first-round byes in the six-team conference tourney. The next four teams – Stanislaus, Humboldt, San Bernardino and San Diego – all are 11-7.
From there, Monterey Bay and Sonoma are three games behind the top six at 8-10, with both needing miracles to reach Stockton. Los Angeles and San Francisco, at 7-11, are breathing their last gasps.
Stanislaus finishes the regular season at home next weekend against East Bay and Monterey Bay, so its final four games are against teams with losing CCAA records and all the Warriors need to do to guarantee a postseason berth is go 2-2 against those teams.
“The players might be aware of what they need to do because there’s so much info out there on the Web sites,” Reynolds said. “I’m not looking at it that way, but if we go 0-2 this weekend I’ll have to start looking at that pretty hard. Right now I’m in the mode where we’re looking to win one game. If you start looking at the situation differently you either put too much pressure on yourself to win, or not enough pressure on yourself because you know you can take care of it later.”
The Warriors’ playoff hopes have unraveled during the current stretch of seven losses in eight games, and at 4-14 in CCAA play (6-16) overall and six games out of the No. 6 position, Stanislaus’ tragic number has long since passed.
Even with the disappointing last season, the future remains bright, as the Warriors are getting solid play from players who plan to be in the program for a while.
In the Feb. 12 loss at Humboldt State, sophomore Riley Holladay set a career-high with 18 points and added eight rebounds, three steals and three blocked shots. Erica Larsen, a sophomore with three remaining years of eligibility, had nine points against Humboldt and came back against San Bernardino two nights later to score 10 points. The 6-feet, 3-inch center is averaging 12 points per game over her last three starts.
In addition, the Warriors are getting steady play from sophomore Cassidy Sanders-Curry, whose 8.5-point scoring average includes a 30-point outburst Dec. 20 in the Stanislaus win at Chico State.
Stanislaus got back to .500 overall (5-5) with Tuesday’s home sweep of Hawaii Hilo, and hope to harness that momentum as they return to CCAA play today at home against red-hot UC San Diego, which has won 11 straight games. The Warriors (1-3 in the CCAA) and Tritons (11-1, 4-0) play doubleheaders today (1 p.m.) and Saturday (11 a.m.)
Nicolette Vizcaino, a sophomore outfielder from Turlock High, leads Stanislaus with a gaudy .543 average and has hit safely in nine of the 10 games, including seven multi-hit games. Holly Mooring, a senior from La Mirada, is hitting .438 with a team-high eight RBI.
The Warriors open CCAA play at home tonight with a single game against perennial power Chico State in the first of a four-game weekend series.
Stanislaus (5-5) and the Wildcats (1-2 with four home rainouts) play tonight at 6 o’clock and will meet Saturday in a noon doubleheader before wrapping up the series with a single game Sunday at noon.
The Warriors are hitting only .228 as a team in the early going, with James Heller – a senior first baseman from Turlock High – hitting .310 with five doubles. Junior Michael Chavarria is hitting .278 and leads the team with 10 runs scored.
Stanislaus made its PacWest Conference debut on Sunday with a 7-2 home courts loss to Holy Names, and travels Sunday to battle No. 14 Academy of Art in San Francisco. J’Ana Diamond, a sophomore from Santee, had a hand in both Warrior victories against Holy Names, winning her singles match 6-4, 6-4 and teaming with Jessica Laurie for a 8-0 doubles victory.
TRACK AND FIELD
Akia Buford, a freshman from Gregori High, ran three races in four days at the Fresno State Run for a Dream, finishing the weekend with a first-place in the 800 meters at 2:22.12. The meet was held inside Save Mart Center.
The Warriors kickoff the outdoor track and field season on Sat., Feb. 28, by hosting the Stanislaus Open.