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Saturday, May 25, 2024

Aggies fall short in Big West Conference Championships

Both men’s and women’s basketball suffer tough losses in finals and miss out on March Madness

 

By LUCIENNE BROOKER — sports@theaggie.org

 

As confetti rained down on the court at the Dollar Loan Center in Henderson, Nevada, both the UC Davis men’s and women’s basketball teams watched as their opponents celebrated a new win. After strong regular season showings from both teams, the Aggies had a fighting chance as they made it into their respective tournament championships. However, neither Davis team was able to clinch the Big West Conference Championship and subsequent NCAA playoff berth.

Every drop of blood, sweat and tears shed by the Aggies over the course of the season pushed them closer to March 16, 2024. On this day, both the men’s and women’s Big West Conference Championship finals were scheduled, with the women’s match tipping off at 3 p.m. and the men’s three hours later. 

The women’s basketball team had a tough road to the final. Coming into the playoffs as the No. 5 seed team in a tournament of eight teams, they had to compete in a first-round match instead of skipping straight to the quarterfinals. 

With a decisive 81-56 defeat of Cal State Fullerton, driven by an electric 29-point performance from fifth-year Evanne Turner, the Aggies moved into the quarterfinals. A narrow defeat of No. 4 seed Cal Poly kept their momentum going.

Their semifinal match-up was against long-time rivals and No. 1 seed University of Hawai’i. Having faced one another twice during the regular season, with each team winning once, the Aggies were looking for a tiebreaker win — and they found it.

Turner was once again a key player, converting a three-point basket in the final minute of play to give her team a 51-48 victory and put them into the final match-up. 

While spirits were high heading into the game against the No. 2 seed UC Irvine Anteaters, luck was not on the UC Davis teams’ side. The score stayed evenly matched for the first two quarters, but the Anteaters eventually took control, holding Davis to their lowest score this season. As tournament champions, UC Irvine advanced to the NCAA playoffs but lost in their first match. 

Despite the women’s defeat, Aggie basketball fans held on to hope that the men’s team would be able to bring UC Davis a victory in their final game. Coming into the tournament as the No. 2 seed, the men’s team was automatically placed in the semifinals, where they also defeated Hawai’i by three points. 

However, the similarities between teams continued as the men fell to Long Beach State in the final. Despite third-year Ty Johnson’s 30-point performance, UC Davis couldn’t overcome the strong Long Beach offense and lost 70-74. Although they held a narrow lead for most of the first half, Long Beach went on a final unanswered run in the last minute of play. Long Beach State, similarly to UC Irvine, went on to lose in the first round of the NCAA playoffs. 

Despite disappointing outcomes for the Aggie players and fans, both basketball teams had stellar seasons of record-breaking performances. To reach the final match of the Big West Conference Championships isn’t an easy feat, and both teams did so in style with plenty of exciting moments for fans and players to look back on. As for now, both teams will say goodbye to several key graduating players and begin to look forward to the 2024-25 season. 

 

Written by: Lucienne Brooker — sports@theaggie.org

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