Long Beach’s first loss of the day happened just 90 seconds into the game. Junior forward Joe Hampton clashed with two Gauchos and hit the floor hard, causing Long Beach to lose its third-best scorer early on.
Despite the loss, No. 9 seeded Long Beach surprised everyone when it stuck close to regular season champion Santa Barbara throughout the game, making it a close match before losing 95-87.
In a season that featured three pauses and unconventional practices and games, Long Beach refused to be counted out, even against a top-seeded opponent.
An all around effort led to a close game, as Long Beach had multiple players hit double digits. The Beach was led by senior guard Colin Slater, who racked up 20 points including four 3-pointers in pivotal moments.
The Beach seemed to have an answer for every run Santa Barbara took, whether it came from a huge 3-pointer from Slater or a fast-break play from Isaiah Washington.
Long Beach ran the 3-point game, shooting 50% beyond the arc and holding the Gauchos to a mere 33%. Where they faltered was free-throws, where they shot 69% compared to Santa Barbara’s 81%.
Every time Santa Barbara tried to extend its lead, Long Beach made a run of their own. The Gauchos led by as many as 17 points in the second half, but Long Beach put its head down and worked to close the gap to five points with under three minutes remaining.
The pressure seemed to get to the Beach, which led to sloppy mistakes late in the game. Slater’s steal attempt led to a pair of made free throws from Santa Barbara and a flagrant foul committed by Washington essentially sealed the game with under 30 seconds left.
The foul call was highly contested and Head Coach Dan Monson was visibly upset on the sidelines. The call seemed to take the wind out of Long Beach’s run and allowed Santa Barbara to cruise to victory.
Long Beach ends its shortened season with a 4-8 conference record.