Herb Sendek guides the Broncos to first winning season in past four years
The Santa Clara
February 22, 2017
Santa Clara men’s basketball closed out its regular season with a loss at nationally ranked Saint Mary’s College in Moraga on Saturday. The Broncos suffered the 70-56 letdown after holding on to beat the University of the Pacific by one point last Thursday.
Sophomore guard KJ Feagin led the effort for the Brocnos on Thursday, scoring 22 points on an efficient eighty percent shooting from the field. Forward Nate Kratch also had a stellar game on his senior night, scoring 18 points against Pacific.
Senior guard Jared Brownridge struggled against Pacific, scoring just five points. But Santa Clara has to be encouraged that they could still pull out the win without their best player leading the way.
Santa Clara finished the regular season with a record of 16-15 (10-8 WCC), their first winning season since 2012-13. Next up for the Broncos is a matchup versus the University of San Francisco on Saturday, Mar. 4 at 3 p.m. in Vegas for a West Coast Conference Tournament quarterfinal.
The Broncos earned the four seed in what will be a four versus five matchup. The Dons also finished with a 10-8 conference record, but the Broncos owned the tiebreaker, because of their win against a Brigham Young team that beat San Francisco twice.
The Broncos and Dons split their matchups this year, the home team winning both games. Santa Clara was victorious on New Year’s Eve in the Leavey Center, defeating USF 72-58. The Dons got off to a hot start and held off a comeback attempt to beat the Broncos 61-58 on Feb. 9.
The February matchup was definitely a tale of two halves, with Santa Clara being outscored 24-44 out of the gate, but outscoring the Dons 34-17 in the second period. The Broncos will need to avoid another slow start if they hope to move on in this year’s tournament.
“The last game we came out very slow in the first half, that’s what stopped us from winning that game,” said first-team all-WCC senior Jared Brownridge. “In the second half we rallied together and played the way we were supposed to play. As long as we can do that from start to finish, we will be fine.”
Fellow senior Nate Kratch agrees with Brownridge that the Broncos do not need to have an extraordinary performance against the Dons. If they play like they’re capable of, they should emerge victorious over San Francisco.
“Nothing for us changes really, it’s just another game, with the same preparation and same attitude,” said Kratch, an honorable mention all-WCC. “The big thing is just making sure that we keep working on the small things, working on the fundamentals, and keep getting better as a team defensively.”
Both seniors stressed the importance of fast-breaks on the success of their offense.
“The big thing for us to get a win on Saturday is establishing ourselves on defense and getting stops, which really helps us push the ball in transition and really ignites our offense,” Kratch said.
Kratch will have to play well against San Francisco, along with center Emmanuel Ndumanya.
“Rebounding is huge, because they got us on the glass the last time we played them,” said Brownridge, Santa Clara’s second all-time leading scorer. “We really have to box our man out, and I think that will really help us get in transition which is what makes our team go.”
If the Broncos can come out on top by rebounding and getting out in transition, they will almost certainly face Gonzaga University, ranked fourth in the nation, on Monday in a semifinal game. But the Broncos can’t afford to look past San Francisco.
The quarterfinal matchup has all the makings of a nailbiter that will come down to the wire, which the Broncos can absolutely win if they execute their game plan. But if they come up short against San Francisco, Saturday’s game will be the last game in a Santa Clara uniform for Kratch and Brownridge.
“It really hasn’t hit me yet that it could possibly be my last game,” Kratch said. “I’m really just focusing on giving it my all on Saturday and playing my best.”
Contact Bo Kendall at email@example.com or call (408) 554-4852