In a breathtaking overtime win, the Cabrillo College Seahawks moved on to the second round of the California Community College Athletic Association (CCCAA) championship tournament Friday night and one step closer to a state title in what was the school's first home playoff game in its 52-year history.
No. 8 Cabrillo (22-3) defeated the no. 9 seed Foothill College Owls (18-10), 65-63, in front a noisy, excited crowd of more than 250 people.
The Seahawks gave a great all around performance, but there was no doubt the game was in the hands of a dynamic duo of point guard Tyler Velasquez and shooting guard Aaron Short, each of whom scored 21 points.
“It’s the second time we played them, so we know each other pretty well," said Short. "I feel like it just came down to whoever executed the scouting report well. It looks like we got the slight edge on them tonight.”
Not only was Cabrillo's gym packed, sparked in part by a letter sent by the school's president Brian King urging people to support the first big playff game on campus, but the crowd looked like something you'd see at a Division-I school. Some wore teal and white facepaint and the crowd's enthusiasm sparked a big moment late in the game.
The game began at a fast pace when Velasquez and Short used their speed to elude the Owl defense, scoring a couple of buckets to give Cabrillo an early 17-10 lead with 9:50 left in the first half.
Cabrillo's Joe Saarem knocked in a couple of three-pointers to help keep the Seahawks ahead.
Foothill kept it a tight game and Cabrillo was only up 21-20 after brief lead changes.
“We were challenging shots all night and they were just making them,” said Velasquez.
With only seconds to go in the first half, the Seahawks defense attacked once again, forcing an Owl turnover that gave Cabrillo a 29-26 lead going at the half.
Foothill came out strong in the second half, sparked by efficient ball control, allowing them to take a 33-32 lead at 16:42 remaining.
“They’re a great shooting team. They don’t give up. They've got a lot of fight in them.” said Short.
Cabrillo regained a safe 52-46 lead after Velasquez canned a three with 2:30 left in the second half.
Short had a chance to seal the deal on his own shot after he drew a foul. But he only made one of two free throw attempts and gave the Seahawks a 55-52 lead with 10 seconds left on the clock.
That was enough time for Foothill’s point guard Ryan Cali to send the game into overtime with a game-tying three-point bucket.
But in overtime, the crowd noise came into effect and helped the home team when Foothill’s point guard Ben Neves missed two crucial free throw that could have given the Owls potential life on the court.
And it was Velasquez who closed down shop after he made one of his two free throw attempts that gave Cabrillo the 65-63 victory.
“I’m just excited," said Velasquez. "This is my first playoff win in both my years here.”
The Seahawks now wait for the winner between no. 1 seed San Francisco (26-2) and no. 17 seed Contra Costa (20-9). If Contra Costa beats San Francisco, Cabrillo's next game will be at home.