By: Youeal Abera
SFU’s West Gym was surging with electricity on Friday night as the SFU men’s basketball team played a riveting game against the Humboldt State University Lumberjacks. With a continuously close score, the filled-out audience never ceased to cheer as the Clan persisted against an impressively well-rounded team. Both teams’ exciting and combative plays made for a monumental game to kick off the first-ever Div II tournament hosted by SFU.
Two minutes into the first half, point guard Michael Provenzano scored the first points of the game, eliciting euphoria from SFU’s fans in the gymnasium. Nevertheless, the Clan found some difficulty in besting Humboldt State within the first half. Despite their ardent efforts to counter HSU’s efficient teamwork, SFU struggled to work around the number of skilled shooters on their opponent’s team.
The points attained by the Lumberjacks were predominately scored by these particularly robust sharpshooters, as four of HSU’s players (Calvin Young II, Kameron Curl, Jackson Strong, and LJ Williams) managed to achieve double-digit points in the game. A lot of their points came from shooting guard Jackson Strong, a player who shot 5–12 from beyond the arc. As most of HSU’s first-half points were achieved by these four players, SFU’s Clan only managed to make 33 points against HSU’s 42.
As the second half commenced, the Clan’s efforts to take the Lumberjack’s lead trailed on. Although SFU reemerged with a tangible determination, HSU managed to gain a significant amount of points by capitalizing on a couple of turnovers. In spite of visible discouragement from the game’s score and a number of fouls called by the refs, SFU refused to remain complacent with the concept of defeat.
Perhaps emboldened by the crowd’s vehemency and relentless enthusiasm, the Clan managed to pivot the game’s trajectory within the final five minutes of the game. During these last few moments, SFU took the lead by a single point after guard Michael Balata hit an impressive triple. Even though the game ended with three free throws issued to HSU, SFU managed to take the victory by a score of 73–72.
Two noteworthy players who made significant waves in Friday night’s game were Balata and centre Julian Roche. Each player led the way for SFU’s performance, with Balata scoring 22 points and Julian achieving 18 within the duration of the season opener. Through a considerable amount of grit and resilience, Julian also brought in 11 rebounds (five offensive and 6 defensive). Balata, in a number of dead plays, was able to successfully create opportunities for his own shots, which greatly contributed to SFU’s win. Both players maintained high bouts of momentum throughout the entire span of the game.
Although the Friday night match was only a season opener, the exhilaration borne of SFU’s last-minute win, along with the crowd’s corresponding cheers, made the event feel like the last game of a playoff series. It was a tough match, but the SFU men’s basketball team gloriously took the win during the final minutes of the second half. If SFU’s team were a Kendrick Lamar song, they’d rap, “Sit down, be Humboldt”.