In a game that featured 53 fouls, it would be the absence of a whistle that made the difference for Sonoma State on Thursday as the Seawolves fell to rival Chico State 80-77 before a rowdy Wolves' Den crowd.
The Seawolves stumble to 7-12, 5-10 CCAA on the year while the Wildcats (11-8, 7-8 CCAA) complete their first season sweep of Sonoma since 1995-96.
The Wildcats got out to a terrific start, nailing their first four shots en route to a 10-0 lead in the first two minutes. The Seawolves finally started heating up just a moment later as they went on a 10-2 run to narrow the gap to two, then take the lead a few possessions later at 15-14 with 12:16 left in the first.
The teams would stay fairly close the rest of the first half as the Sewolves went into the break up two at 42-40.
The Seawolves held on to their lead for the first eight minutes of the second half before the Wildcats went up 56-54 on a pair of Roderick Hawkins free throws. Chico would then control the game, slowly pushing the lead to as many as seven before the Seawolves made things exciting.
Down 74-67 with three and a half minutes to go, Matthew French swished a pair of free throws to cut the lead to five. Following two Wildcat turnovers and a pair of missed free throws, Will Olsem sank a three to make it 74-72 with 1:12 left. The teams would then trade baskets, before Sean Park hit a pair of free throws to give Chico a four-point cushion with 27 seconds left.
Showing impressive patience, the Seawolves wouldn't settle for a bad shot as Steven Pratt set up Patrick Scott for a three-pointer with 14 seconds left to cut the lead to 78-77.
As expected, the Seawolves resorted to fouling the Wildcats. As they'd hoped, the Wildcats couldn't convert. Four consecutive missed free throws gave the Seawolves the ball with ten seconds left and a one-point deficit.
Needing just one point, the Seawolves knew it could come from the field or from the stripe and they put the ball in the hands of Pratt, the best free throw shooter in Sonoma State history. The junior darted toward the right, finding plenty of contact, but to the shagrin of the Seawolves, no foul as the ball squirted away, to be swallowed up by the Wildcats with less than a second left. Damario Sims hit a couple of free throws and the game was over.
The loss snapped a 13-game home winning streak for Sonoma over Chico, dating back to 1997.
Ben Washington had a big night for Sonoma State, nearing his career-high with 24 points on 7-of-12 shooting. His point total was aided by nine free throws in ten attempts. Matthew French had a nice night as well, posting 17 points and 11 rebounds in 29 minutes of action. Patrick Scott had 10 points and Pratt finished with six assists.
Five Wildcats finished in double digits, led by 19 from Sean Park. Pellum finished with 12 points and six rebounds and former SSU point guard Jay Flores, had 11 points, six rebounds, and three assists.
The Seawolves will host Cal State Stanislaus on Saturday evening as they try to snap a two-game losing skid. Tip off is set for 7:30.
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