An exciting postseason run by the Menlo College men's basketball team came to an end in a 66-63 loss to host CSU Martime in the championship game of the California Pacific Conference playoffs on Monday night in Vallejo.
The Oaks (10-18) and Keelhaulers (24-6) played a highly competitive brand of basketball, but Maritime's ability to make clutch free throws down the stretch proved to be the difference. It was CSU Maritime's second consecutive Cal Pac tournament title.
"Maritime got the best of us tonight," said Menlo head coach Jon Surface. "They are a well coached team and earned the trip to the national tournament."
Trailing by 31-24 at halftime, Menlo came out of break and turned it around. With a little over 10 minutes remaining, and Menlo trailing by one, David Abittan delivered with a deep three-pointer to give the Oaks their first, and only, lead of the night, 38-36.
Immediately following the lead change, the Keelhaulers put together a 9-0 run to regain the lead and position themselves to handle the Menlo attack down the stretch.
With just over five minutes remaining, Maritime took their largest lead of the night, 49-39. In the final minutes of the game, ChaRunn Jones proved he wasn't ready for his career at Menlo to conclude. Jones scored 12 points in just over 3 1/2 minutes, capped off by a rare four-point-play.
The Oaks, however, had to begin fouling as they trailed by six with just minutes remaining. Maritime continued to hit free throws, and Jones kept taking it down the court and answering with three-pointers. Despite the best efforts of Jones and the Oaks, the Keelhaulers were not to be denied as they held on.
Jones led all scorers with 20 points on the night. John Smith and Charles Barnes each added eight for the Oaks while teammate Keith Bowman contributed eight points and 12 rebounds in the loss.
The loss ends the careers of Menlo seniors Jones and Patrick Greene. Jones ends his career with over 700 points scored in just two seasons. Greene has been battling an injury this year, but has proved to be an integral part in the team's efforts both on and off the court during his tenure at Menlo.
"I'm sad for our two seniors. They have been a huge part of our program and are leaving big shoes to fill," said Surface. "The bright point in all of this is we return 12 players. We will use this experience as motivation for the offseason."