Men’s basketball historic season comes to familiar end

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Following a less than stellar performance at the Pacific West Conference tournament, Dixie State men’s basketball team looked to turn things around in the NCAA Division II tournament. 

After winning a share of its fifth conference title in the last six years and sixth straight 20-win season, Dixie State lost by 23 to BYU-Hawaii in the opening round of the conference tournament, a tournament that the team expected to win. Due to the loss, DSU would also lose an automatic entrance into the NCAA tournament. Despite the effort against BYU-H, the NCAA selection committee awarded the Storm a No. 4-seed in the national championships. 

As the No. 4-seed, DSU would face the No. 5-seed California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. Cal Poly Pomona had beaten the Storm twice in the last four years of the NCAA tournament. 

Looking to exact some revenge, Dixie State fought hard. A back-and-forth battle throughout the game resulted in one of the most exciting finishes of the year. “March Madness” was in full-effect on Friday. 

In the first half, DSU couldn’t buy a bucket. Shooting just 28 percent in the opening period had it facing a three-point deficit.

The second half saw both teams find their stride, Dixie shot above 50 percent and secured a five-point lead with seven minutes to go. CPP wasn’t fazed by the run, led by Terrence Drisdom. Drisdom was the California Collegiate Athletic Association Player of the Year. The Broncos promptly answered with a run of its own and DSU found itself down five with a minute remaining.

Junior guard Robbie Nielson hit two free-throws, and the Storm forced a timely turnover to regain possession. Down three with the ball, DSU had to convert to keep its season alive.

With 24 seconds on the game clock, junior forward Mark Ogden Jr. found himself wide open at the top of the key. Ogden Jr., a business administration major from Spring Valley, California, had only taken and made one three-pointer all season long. Ogden calmly stepped into the shot and drilled it tying the game at 60. 

“I knew coach would kill me if I didn’t make it,” Ogden Jr. said. 

The following defensive possession would be pivotal. CPP turned to Drisdom to try and avoid overtime with the Storm, and he delivered. Drisdom drove through to the lane and stepped back for a one-handed floater on the right elbow. The shot was well contested, but still hit the bottom of the net right as time expired, effectively ended the Storm’s season. 

Head coach Jon Judkins was proud of the way his team fought. 

“It was a tough way to end the game and the season,” Judkins said. “I was so proud of my guys and how they played. They didn’t quit. This does not diminish from the great year we have had.” 

The Storm closed out the season with a 20-8 overall record, led by seniors DeQuan Thompson and Zach Robbins.