Yellowjackets Drop Tough Regional Battle To Coyotes
Bilal Shabazz ended his collegiate career with a double-double of 21 points and 12 rebounds. Photo courtesy of Point Loma Athletics.
Bilal Shabazz ended his collegiate career with a double-double of 21 points and 12 rebounds. Photo courtesy of Point Loma Athletics.

Friday, March 10, 2023

SAN DIEGO – Montana State Billings came up just short Friday, coming back from a sizeable first-half deficit Friday before bowing out of the NCAA West Region in the quarterfinals to Cal State San Bernardino, 63-57, Friday Golden Gym.

The No. 7 seeded Yellowjackets were down by as much as 15 points in the first half before going on a 16-3 run to close to within 33-31 at halftime. They kept the game close until the final seven minutes when the No. 2 seeded Coyotes went on an 8-0 run that effectively put the game out of reach.

Senior forward Bilal Shabazz ended his collegiate career with another double-double, leading all scorers with 21 points to go with 12 rebounds. Senior guard Carrington Wiggins saw his career end with 11 points and eight rebounds as MSUB (20-10) shot 40.7% from the field but just 17.4% from three-point range.

Darius Mickens led Cal State San Bernardino (28-3) with a double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds as the Coyotes shot 37.3% from the field as four CSUSB players scored in double figures. Kaijae Yee-Stephens came off the bench to score 12 points.

Cal St. San Bernardino was hot out of the gate. Brandon Knapper’s turnaround jumper opened up a 12-4 Coyotes’ lead six minutes into the contest and a pair of Dontrell Shuler free throws made it a 14-6 lead at the 12:50 mark of the first half. From that point, MSUB went on an 8-3 run to close with 17-14 on Emmanuel Ajanaku’s dunk midway through the period.

The Coyotes returned the favor with a 13-1 run of their own, building a 30-15 lead on Yee-Stephens’ jumper with 7:27 to go. The Yellowjackets chipped at the deficit the rest of the half, outscoring CSUSB 16-3 run the rest of period with Shabazz’s lay-in allowing MSUB to go into halftime behind by just two points, 33-31.

The Yellowjackets kept the game close in the second half, keeping the Coyotes within no more than five points over the first 15 minutes but could not get the shooting hands going to take the game over. Wiggins made it a 51-49 game with his short jumper with 5;29 to go before a pair of Eddie Davis free throws opened the 8-0 run that closed the door. Mickens ended the run with a layup with 3:31 left that put CSUSB 59-49.

The game marked the first time that MSUB had appeared in the West Region since the Yellowjackets earned the GNAC’s automatic qualifier by winning the GNAC Championships in 2012.

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