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Hoop dreams dashed

The Chico State men's basketball team talks about finding out the NCAA tournament was cancelled.

Posted: Mar 26, 2020 7:34 PM
Updated: Mar 27, 2020 7:19 PM

CHICO, Calif. -- The coronavirus fouled the Chico State men's basketball team hard. The team went from a turnaround season to turning their bus around when they got to the NCAA tournament in La Jolla.

"We were excited to get our practice in before our game on Friday and then coach called a meeting on Thursday," said senior Keith Datu. "He said look I love you guys and he gave us a little speech, I won’t get into that, but he just said due to the pandemic the NCAA decided to cancel our tournament.

Just like that, a great season was over.

"My initial reaction was we have to drive all the way back to Chico. We had just drove ten hours in a bus to San Diego, we slept there and had a meeting and now we’re going back," said senior Justin Briggs.

Then it sank in for the only two seniors on the team.

Briggs is Chico State's All-Time leading scorer and was hoping the tournament would open doors for him.

“Going far in the tournament was for sure the way I wanted to go out, to cap off my season at the highest [level], so just not being able to do that was a bummer, I think it could’ve helped me out a lot," said Briggs.

For Datu, the tournament would have given him a chance to play one last time.

"I did everything I could to get back to playing, but it took too long to rehab and by the time I was finally able to 100% be back on the court our season was over," said Datu.

Both seniors agree cancelling the tournament was the right call. Although they couldn’t finish what they started, they are proud of going from a 9-14 last season to third in the California Collegiate Athletic Association.

"I told them this at the end of the season, they were the most enjoyable group that I've even had the opportunity to coach," said head coach Greg Clink. "These guys were so unselfish, they bought in, their resiliency. This is the first time in I think my career that we didn’t lose two games in a row all year long. We showed adversity."

As the No. 4 seed, the Wildcats were set to make their first appearance in the NCAA tournament in two years. Now they have to wait until next year.

"I don’t think this does anything to change their motivation. I think that they can look at the year we had and the success we had, and look at who we have coming back, and I think that we can do it again next season," said Coach Clink.

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A Pacific storm is now moving into northern California. The clouds have arrived, the wind is getting stronger, and we can expect areas of rain and snow tonight, and it will be heavy at times. Snow will fall down to the valley floor through Wednesday morning.
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