The season, one in which his Bentley squad earned its third trip to the Elite 8 in four seasons, was "awesome, tremendous, spectacular .... with a lot of adversity, that's the good part," said Jay Lawson, moments after the Falcons fell to Cal Poly Pomona, 71-63, in the Division 2 national semifinals at the MassMutual Center on Thursday night.
Cal Poly (27-6), which suffered a stunning, last-second loss to Findlay in last year's national championship game, will play Indiana, Pa. (33-2) in Saturday's final at 1 (CBS TV).
"The tough part is losing, particularily with these seniors," said Lawson, in his 19th season as head coach. "Tonight, we got beat. They hit shots from the perimeter, more than they usually do, and some with hands in their face, and the clock all the the way done. Some from peripherial people that don't usually shoot much.
"And give credit to what they're really good at, their defense is tailor made, couldn't be any better to guard Jason Westrol (4 of 16, 15 points). They play a matchup zone, so there aren't avenues to penetrate. There's 5 athletes on the floor, so you're movement has to be very creative, you can't screen and cut like you do against a man-to-man (defense).
"This was a special season. We usually have balance. But this particular year, we had to ride a superstar (Westrol). And we had other people emerging too, like John Brandt. I told the team that we came into [the Elite 8] undefeated twice (2007, 2008), which is ridiculous, I can't believe that it happened. This season was better than those years. Regarding what we had, what we dealt with, and what we achieved."
* From the 6:45 mark of the second half, when Brian Tracey (team-high 17 points on 6 of 10 shooting, team-high 11 rebounds) buried his third triple of the night, until he hit his fourth with 13 seconds left, the Falcons did not have a single field goal, only free throws. Cal Poly opened up a 72-56 cushion.
"We just didn't make shots," said Lawson. "Jason missed a layup on a left baseline drive (53 seconds left), probably hasn't missed that shot in his whole career."
* Senior wing Austin Swift led the Broncos (27-6) with 22 points (6 of 11 from the floor, 8 of 10 from the line). Fellow senior Dahir Nasser was 5 of 7 from the field for 11 points, and 6-9 Tobias Jahn, the tallest player on the floor, was a presence in 20 minutes off the bench, with 11 points and six rebounds.
Lawson on Jason Westrol: "We're not going to get another player like him in the next 50 years. There's a reason, whatever [our] record was (118 wins, 16 losses), in a league (the Northeast-10) that is known for top to bottom parity ... we had to ride him more this year. You saw him miss some plays today, and you realize how much he cares. He's the best player we've had in my time here (25 years total), and we've had some exceptional players. He's a wonderful story."
* Westrol finishes his career with 2,068 points, second in program history behind guard Billy Holden (2,103). In addition to Brandt (11 points) and Westrol, the Falcons will also graduate walk-on guards Dan McKenna (Xaverian Brothers/Millis) and Frank Parelli.
Jason Westrol on the loss: "It was very tough to penetrate their zone. We were not able to hit some shots. They played a great game. But I've never had a better experience in my lifetime."
Cal Poly coach Greg Kamansky on the win: "Just a tough hard-nosed basketball game for 40 minutes. Only 16 turnovers combined, it was well-played. Bentley plays physical and they play well. We were able to get back to the championship game. We held off their surge in the second half.
Kamansky on defending Westrol: "We really focused on him a lot. I still thought he played very well, he had [7 assists]. We made it tough on him to score points. He tried to take the game over, but we refused to allow him to do it."
Austin Swift on the Broncos' D down the stretch: "We pride ourselves on our defense. We had to buckle down. We expected it. We dug in and got it done."
* Kamansky credited his team's rugged regular-season schedule, which features back-to-back Friday/Saturday night games, for preparing the Broncos for the tournament. We ran off 15 in a row .... incredible. I knew this team had heart and toughness. ... Next thing you know, we're sitting here [in Springfield]"
- Michael Vega
- Mark Blaudschun
- Nancy Marrapese-Burrell