Broncos fall to Western Washington in Las Vegas

LAS VEGAS – Cal Poly Pomona coach Greg Kamansky wasn’t quite sure whether or not the 17-day layoff would help or hurt his team heading into the Great Western Shootout. It didn’t take him long to find out.

The Broncos were soundly beaten by Western Washington 73-64 Tuesday at the Centennial Hills Center in a game that wasn’t as close as the score indicates. They will be looking for a better outcome in today’s 2 p.m. game against Central Washington.

“We just got thrashed from top to bottom,” Kamansky said. “They were the better team, no doubt about it. We went completely blank on offense. We did that against San Francisco State. We did it against Vanguard and we did it again tonight.”

The Broncos (1-4) led early at 14-8 but that lead lasted only seven minutes. The Vikings pulled even when junior center Zach Bruce scored inside to tie the game at 19. The Vikings (7-1) took the lead for good moments later on a put back by junior forward Calin Schell.

Western Washington, which has won seven straight games since losing its season opener to Cal State San Bernardino, led 23-19 when Kevin Neveau scored inside with 6:12 left in the half to cut the deficit to two, 23-21.

But the Vikings reeled off the last 10 points of the half and the first eight of the second half, going up 41-21 on a jumper from the baseline by Derrick Webb. The scoring drought of 9:35 finally ended on two free throws by Larry Gordon but the Broncos were never in striking distance again.

Western Washington, out of the Great Northwest Athletic Conference, maintained a double-digit lead most of the second half. The Broncos didn’t get within single digits until Gordon hit a pair of free throws with 30 seconds left.

Cal Poly Pomona shot 42.6 percent (23-for-54) but managed just 36 percent (9-for-25) in the first half. Angelo Tsagarakis had a team-high 19 points, including three 3-pointers. He also snagged eight rebounds and had four assists. Gordon added 15 with 10 rebounds but all of his points and seven boards came in the second half.

Kamansky cited the layoff for the sluggish performance.

“I hate to use that as an excuse but we definitely looked like we haven’t played in two weeks,” he said. “Our schedule has been erratic and we just haven’t been able to get in a rhythm.”

Western Washington, which shot 474 percent (27-for-57) was sparked by a local product as former Fontana High standout Ira Graham who tallied 14 points, 12 of those in the first half. He also collected five assists and a steal.

Graham, who leads the GNAC in scoring, admits he likes playing against the local teams.

“I definitely get more focused, more excited when I play the local teams,” the junior guard said. “I had a lot of family here so it made it even better.”

Kamansky added that the pressure is on to win the second game in the tournament. Teams from the CCAA and the GNAC battle for playoff berths in the Division II West Regional in March so this weekend’s games will have an impact.

“We aren’t leaving ourselves a lot of room for error,” he said. “Right now we don’t look like a good team.”