It seems like this is going to be one of those seasons when nothing comes easy to the Cal Poly Pomona men’s basketball team. So it isn’t surprising the Broncos had to take the long route to Las Vegas.
The Broncos are competing in the Great Western Shootout today and Saturday at the Doolittle Community Center in Las Vegas. They left around 1p.m. on Wednesday, but since snow and rain closed the normal route, the I-15 North, the team had to take the I-10 East and connect with the 95 which proceeds north along the California-Arizona border.
That turned a three-hour trip into a seven-hour journey.
“Most of the guys just slept,” coach Greg Kamansky said. “What else can you do?”
The Broncos’ reward is a pair of games against foes picked to finish first and second in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference. Cal Poly Pomona (3-2) will face No. 12 Central Washington (5-2) Thursday and Western Washington (6-1) on Friday. Both are set for 5 p.m.
The games are important because they will be the Broncos’ lone nonconference games against NCAA Division II teams in-region and that’s a major component that goes toward determining regional ranking and playoff eligibility.
Cal Poly lost to the same two foes by big margins last season.
“Obviously, winning both would be nice but we really need to win at least one,” Kamansky said. “But it’s not going to be easy, because they’re both very good teams. We have to play better than we have to this point.”
The Broncos have four games on their schedule against NAIA teams. One of those was on Monday when Kamansky’s team lost to a solid Master’s College squad.
The Broncos led 38-35 early in the second half before suffering a seven-minute scoring drought that cost them the game.
The good news was senior Larry Gordon looked more like the Larry Gordon of old with a season-high 20 points and 12 rebounds. Cal Poly also got a workman-like effort out of wingman Austin Swift (12 points) and a steady contribution from seldom-used walk-on Jimmy Miayaska.
“We didn’t play bad, we just didn’t finish,” Kamansky said. “It was a winnable game. We did better but we need to keep moving forward.
Both the Wildcats and Vikings loom as formidable foes. One familiar face is the biggest offensive weapon for Western Washington — former Fontana High School standout Ira Graham.
Graham is a two-time GNAC first-team selection. He is sixth in the GNAC in scoring (17.3 ppg) and eighth in free-throw percentage (.806).
“I always look forward to playing against them,” the senior said of the Broncos. “It’s always special to be able to play against one of the hometown teams.”