SAN DIEGO – Three years of hard-work under coach Ryan Looney paid off on Monday night when the Point Loma men's basketball team captured the 2019 NCAA West Championship with a 60-54 victory over Saint Martin's.
This is the place that coach Ryan Looney wanted to take the Sea Lions after taking over the program prior to the 2016-17 season. Early morning practices, intense effort in the weight room and commitment to each other were all keys in taking this program to new heights, but it was the 'effort' of the Sea Lions, and some clutch shooting by Daulton Hommes, which earned them the regional championship.
Point Loma held the Saints to just .345 percent shooting in the game, and their all-region performer, Luke Chaves scored just 12 points on 4-of-19 shooting. He was not the only one struggling from the field as the Sea Lions ran defenders at every shooter. SMU scored just 24 points in the first half and finished with 54 on the night. This was the third time in the regional, PLNU held its opponent in the 50-point range.
Saint Martin's was nearly able to match the Sea Lions' defensive effort, and the teams went into halftime with PLNU leading 30-24. In the second half, the Saints cut the lead to two (40-38) at the 12:01-mark. It was then Hommes' time to shine; He gave the capacity crowd at Golden Gym exactly what they had come to see as he hit back-to-back deep 3-pointers and extended the lead back to eight (49-41). PLNU would push the lead to 10 with 7:09 on the clock, but the Saints would not go away.
SMU scored seven straight points, capped by a driving layup from BJ Standley with 4:40 remaining cut the Sea Lions' lead to three (51-48). Again the Sea Lions called a play for Hommes. They were able to get him open for a 3-pointer four feet behind the line, and as he did all tournament, he drilled his shot in the biggest moment. That shot lit up the Sea Lion crowd and put Point Loma back in control.
After a pair of free throws by Sterling Somers extended the Sea Lions' led back to eight (56-48) with 3:57 remaining, Point Loma would go 3:34 without scoring, but their defense again stepped up, holding the Saints to just 2-of-7 shooting down the stretch. However, a driving layup by Chavez with 37 seconds left chopped the Sea Lions' lead to 56-52 and put a little pressure back on PLNU.
SMU fouled the Sea Lions on their next possession, and it had some hope after PLNU missed the frontend of a 1-and-1, but Chavez missed a 3-pointer, and Tanner Nelson was able to secure the rebound. He knocked down both free throws with 23 seconds left to extend the lead back to six (58-52). On the ensuing possession, Point Loma's season-long commitment to each other paid off with a smothering defense that would not even allow SMU to get a shot off before taking nearly 10 seconds off the clock. EJ Boyce did make a midrange jumper to cut to four (58-54).
Nelson was then able to find Josh Rodriguez on the inbounds play, where he was promptly fouled. He made 1-of-2 free throws, but Chavez missed another 3-pointer before Preston Beverly collected another rebound and sealed the game at the line.
Daulton Hommes earned the Most Outstanding Player of the West Regional after averaging 24.3 points, 7.0 rebounds per game and hitting 12-of-20 shots from 3-point range. He finished tonight with 25 points on 10-of-15 shooting, including going 5-of-8 from behind the arc. He also got help from all-tournament selection Ziggy Satterthwaite, who scored 15 points on 7-of-10 shooting. Preston Beverly had a game-high nine rebounds to help Point Loma outrebound Saint Martin's 40-27.
This is the first NCAA West Regional title for Point Loma in any sport. The Sea Lions transitioned from the NAIA in 2012-13 and first became eligible for the NCAA postseason in 2014-15.
#1 Point Loma (29-4), #3 Saint Martin's (26-6)
Twice Point Loma could have caved as they saw Saint Martin's cut the lead to a one-possession game, but each time the Sea Lions had the answer in the form of their D2CCA West Region Player of the Year. Hommes made big shot after big shot for the Sea Lions all tournament, including the one with 4:07 remaining that put PLNU up 54-48. That would be the last basket of the game for the Sea Lions, and SMU would never eclipse the 54-point mark.
Some Words from Coach Looney and the Student-Athletes
News and Notes
> The 29 wins are the second-most in Point Loma history
> The school record for wins in a season is 31 (1952-53)
> This was the first regional championship for PLNU and for coach Looney
> PLNU outscored SMU 14-0 on second-chance points
> Hommes led PLNU in scoring in all three games during the regional
> Hommes scored in double figures in all 32 games this season, including eclipsing the 20-point plateau 17 times
> The victory avenges a loss for PLNU earlier in the season against Saint Martin's in which the Sea Lions blew a 19-point, second-half lead
> PLNU is 25-1 this season when holding their opponents to 75 points or less
The Sea Lions will head to the Elite Eight in Evansville, Ind. The tournament will be held Mar. 27-30. Point Loma will find out its opponent later this week.