LAS VEGAS, Nev. (KERO) — The Cal State Bakersfield basketball programs entered the Big West Conference amid so much uncertainty while playing in a pandemic. One thing that was certain was they were planning to prove people wrong. As they did both teams finished the regular season higher than their preseason projections.
And while many would say it's luck to have made it to the Big West Championships after an adverse season that luck ran out early for CSUB in Vegas.
Both 'Runners teams did not get to play in their final WAC Tournament last season with all college basketball missing out on March Madness with the cancellation of the NCAA Tournament.
That made the Big West Championships more gratifying especially for the women's team who overcame seven canceled games and more than a month in quarantine due to COVID-19. Including the past two weeks completely off the floor before entering the tournament.
While the team took a lead in the first quarter over Hawaii the fatigue caught up to the ladies who would fall 81-67 in the quarterfinals.
"Despite the two-week pause that we had where we weren't even allowed to leave our apartments or houses. I was still really confident that the team was gonna win and do well in this tournament just because of how much I believe in my teammates and my team, and how competitive we all are. And so I'm very confident in that and that says a lot, so then we started off strong, and then as the game went on our energy started to drain," said CSUB guard Andie Easley.
"It's not fair. There's not any team that has to go through this. And then you're asking them to come out and compete at a high level, with a team that has it. And that's hard to do," added CSUB coach Greg McCall.
While the women only had 17 games by the end of the regular season, the men had played 25 and had a 15-10 record heading into the tourney. They also boasted first-team All-Big West selectee Taze Moore who did not disappoint in his first appearance in the Big West Championships.
Nearly two weeks between games as well with a bye .the men fell behind in their first meeting with UC Davis in the quarters.
A heartfelt effort late in the second half fell short as the Aggies knocked off the 'Runners by two points, 58-56 in the final.
"It's disappointing to have the season that we had. The accomplishments we had in building bonds with one another and it just had to happen like this is truly disappointing," said Moore.
For both head coaches of these programs even getting to this point in the season throughout all the adversity of the year is the biggest reward.
"Just proud of just the way they carried themselves. To deny yourself of so many things that at the age that they are to make a commitment to our program," said CSUB coach Rod Barnes. "We didn't have guys missing anything there on a pandemic. We had guys that came to practice and they will prepare to practice. They just gave their all."
"I said as soon as the game was over and how proud I was of them all the things that they've sacrificed throughout the year that some of them didn't get to go home for spring. Some of them didn't get home for summer. If you didn't get to go home for Thanksgiving. They didn't get to go home for Christmas. They were here the whole entire time. So you're asking a lot and then when you're here, you're telling our players, you come to practice. Go back to your apartment. Make sure you stay in your bubble. That's a huge sacrifice on young kids," said McCall.
As much as teams want to win especially in the postseason, I do think it will nice to get some time away from the stress of playing in a pandemic. And as you heard from the coaches their first season in the Big West is one they all should be proud of.