By Jake Knoeller
College basketball is complicated. The CCAA men’s conference is anything but predictable. As of late, this has not worked in Cal Poly Humboldt’s favor.
Currently, the women’s team is on a five game losing streak. They are placed ninth in the conference out of twelve schools, and are eliminated from conference tournament contention, as the top six teams make it in, all of which have already been decided.
That being said, there is also a positive side to the team’s situation. With this being their first time together as almost an entirely brand new team, it can’t be expected that everything will click immediately. They luckily have an offseason to improve with returning players.
“We didn’t have any seniors on our roster this year,” said head coach Michelle Bento-Jackson. “There’s a lot of thought that’s gonna go into this offseason on how we can get better for next year.”
As for right now, the focus is simply on becoming a better basketball team. They travel to play Cal State San Marcos, a nationally ranked opponent, on Thursday. On Saturday they play at Cal State LA.
With only pride to play for at this point, Humboldt has an opportunity to play quality opponents without the pressure and bring two good showings to close out this season.
“We have everything to gain and nothing to lose going into these last two games on the road,” said Bento-Jackson. “You don’t always get opportunities to play ranked teams and we should be happy about that.”
The men’s team is a different story. They await the biggest games of their season away from home this coming weekend, also facing San Marcos on Thursday and LA on Saturday.
The Lumberjacks exited a four game home stand on a three game losing streak. Two days after a close win against Cal State East Bay on Feb. 9, in which Malek Davis made the go-ahead shot with 40 seconds to go, Humboldt lost in overtime to Cal State Dominguez Hills. This was a heartbreaker that left many fans and players wondering what went wrong in a very winnable game.
The following weekend, Humboldt led by as many as 14 against nationally ranked Cal State San Bernardino. They lost by one point.
This game was a head scratcher for several reasons. Not only had Humboldt led the whole game and been the better team, they also gave up seven straight points to close the game and lost an opportunity to significantly increase their conference tournament hopes.
“I thought we controlled the game and dominated for 39 minutes and 20 seconds,” said head coach Tae Norwood. “Credit to San Bernardino for pulling this one out.”
Two days later, a home loss against Pomona added significance to this final weekend of the season for the Jacks.
Humboldt still sits at third in the conference out of twelve schools, currently holding tiebreakers over San Francisco State and Sonoma State, teams with the same 10-10 conference record as the Lumberjacks. Six schools are racing for the final four conference tournament spots.
A minimum of one win this weekend would give them a very good chance to qualify for the conference tournament, depending on what happens with other teams. Winning both games would keep them in third place going into the tournament. Momentum is also an important factor at this time of a season.
“The team that’s the hottest late in the year is usually the team that wins the conference tournament, pending that all the teams are beatable,” said Norwood. “The league’s wide open.”
If there’s a time to turn it around, that time is now. The Jacks have a golden opportunity to earn a berth in the conference tournament.