MONMOUTH — Stepping up their energy in the last minute of the game to try and outscore California Baptist, the Wolves couldn’t seem to catch up with their fast-paced opponent and lost their final game in the NCAA Division II Men’s Basketball West Regional Monday night.
Ali Faruq-Bey led the night with 26 points; Demetrius Trammell contributed 16, and both Riley Hawken and Tanner Omlid had 11.
For the beginning of the first half, the score was back and forth until the Lancers pushed through the Wolves’ solid defense and came out with a 17-11 lead at the 11:39 mark. Responding to this, the Wolves pulled up hard and struck a 6-0 run that lasted for three minutes, tying them 17-all, with Riley Hawken shooting a quick lay-in to get them there.
The Lancers fought back with their own scoring streak of 10-2 for the next minute; foul trouble took them to the free-throw line that spread the gap to an all-game high, 27-19.
The Wolves, fueled by the gap in score, battled with claws out, tightening up their offense— Faruq-Bey’s lay-in with four minutes to go brought the men up within a point of the Lancers, to which they followed up with two back-to-back 3-pointers. At half time, the Wolves were behind, 35-30.
From the start of the game to the finish, the energy of the crowd was palpable, a sea of red and white in the stands, their cheers deafening, filling every corner of the gym as they encouraged their team up and down the court.
This game determined the next step in the Wolves’ basketball season, whether or not it was over, whether or not they advanced to the Elite Eight.
Things ramped up in the second half. The Wolves found their footing and came out with a vengeance, using a 7-0 scoring streak to try and catch up with the Lancers.
After Malik Morgan’s dunk, they were tied, 37-37. The crowd went wild, their screams even louder.
Vince Boumann used a 3-point shot to bring the Wolves into the lead, 41-38, at the 15:33 mark before the Lancers shot back with a 17-5 scoring streak, bringing the score to 55-48.
As the minutes ticked on the clock, the end nearing, the score went back and forth between teams, the intensity building.
“It was a battle from the jump,” Faruq-Bey said. “Both teams were playing hard, both very good teams, well coached, skilled guys; from the jump we knew what we were gonna expect.”
With 42 seconds on the clock, Trammell pulled up a 3-pointer, closing the gap to 73-77, and 20 seconds later, after a free throw from the Lancers, he hit another 3-pointer, shrinking the score 78-76.
Both Omlid and Faruq-Bey attempted to bring the score up even more, but missed the basket, resulting in a devastating loss for the men as the buzzer rang.
“I don’t think we played to the level that we usually do,” Faruq-Bey said after the game, “especially at the beginning of the game, and so that kind put us in a hard spot going into half time, having to climb up from the deficit, so, I just don’t think we played to our capabilities. We just weren’t defending as well as we needed to, we weren’t rebounding and you know, whether it was unconscious or consciously, we just didn’t do the little things all too well.”
The crowd didn’t stop cheering for their Wolves, in spite of the loss; their chants of “thank you, seniors,” rang through the air as the men let the loss sink in. When Omlid was named to the All-Tournament Team, his name was met with explosive encouragement.
The end of the season sees the Wolves with a 31-2 record.