By Michelle Gardner
Cal State San Bernardino senior guards Marlon Pierce and Lance Ortiz stood outside the Coyotes lockerroom Saturday after their team dismantled Cal State Stanislaus. The conversation quickly turned to their next opponent – Cal Poly Pomona.
We cant leave here without beating them, Pierce said, looking over at his backcourt mate. And this is our last chance.
The duo has one more shot. That will come tonight when the Coyotes (19-5, 12-4) entertain the Broncos (10-11, 9-7) in a 7:30 p.m. CCAA showdown at Coussoulis Arena.
Cal Poly has won four straight meetings with the Coyotes, including a 65-62 overtime game at Kellogg Gymnasium earlier this season. The Broncos swept both in 2006-07 and won the final meeting the previous season.
Even in a down year Cal Poly has had the upper hand.
Weird things happen in rivalries, Pierce said. It goes in cycles. Right now theyre getting the best of us. We need to change that.
The Coyotes are ranked No. 20 nationally and remained No. 2 in the West Region poll released Wednesday despite their inexplicable loss to last-place Chico State Friday.
The Broncos are looking to advance to the postseason for the fifth time in six years but will need to win the conference tournament to have a chance. First they have to qualify. Coach Greg Kamansky doesnt think that is a given even though they need just one win in their last four games to do so.
Obviously this will be a tough one, he said. Then we get San Diego who we have already lost to. Then were on the road at Humboldt State and Sonoma. So no it isnt a given.
But first the Broncos must deal with their neighborhood rival. The Coyotes rank first in the conference in scoring defense (62.2) while the Broncos are last in scoring offense (64.2).
The Coyotes are fifth in scoring offense (71.8) while the Broncos are second in defense (63.3).
Coyotes coach Jeff Oliver thinks they key will be pressure, both offensively and defensively. His team needs to create offense by forcing turnovers. When the teams first played his team forced 21 but they had 17 themselves.
We have to do pressure the ball and force turnovers but we also have to do a better job handling their press which is underrated. It is very good, he said.
The Broncos rely on one player – junior Larry Gordon (17.8 ppg, 10 rpg) with senior guard Angelo Tsagarakis (14.9 ppg) a formidable threat from long distance.
Cal State is more balanced although Pierce (13 ppg, 4 apg, 2 spg) has been carrying the Coyotes lately. Senior center Michael Earl (13 ppg) and Ortiz (12.3 ppg, 4.5 apg) are the otyhers averaging double figures.
The womens game will tip off at 5:30 p.m. The Coyotes (19-4, 13-3) are tied with Chico State atop the CCAA standings after a stunning win over the then-No. 13 Wildcats. That win propeled the Coyotes into the national rankings at No. 24.
The Broncos (10-12, 7-9) are also playing for a CCAA tournament berth and are seventh, just one game ahead of eighth-place Dominguez Hills. Eight of the 11 will qualify.
The Coyotes are led by senior Vanessa Wilt who leads the conference in scoring (20.9), rebounding (13.7), blocks (2.35) and field goal percentage (.584).
But the teams success depends on its perimeter shooting. The Broncos kept Wilt in check in a 78-64 loss earlier this season but junior Rachel Johnson lit them up for a career-high 24 that included five 3-pointers.
Senior reserve guard Leslie Pickron has emerged as a threat in the last week, draining a total of 10 3-pointers in the Coyotes two games last weekend. That showing earned her conference player of the week honors.
When theyre shooting well from the outside theyre capable of beating anybody, Broncos coach Scott Davis said of the Coyotes. And they have a lot of players who can shoot it from out there.Iit definitely presents a problem for us.