Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Captains Advance to Coast-To-Coast Championship With 58-44 Semifinal Victory over UC Santa Cruz

(Sydney Smith/CNU Athletics)

FREDERICKSBURG — Christopher Newport University opened post-season play Friday night, recording a 58-44 victory over UC Santa Cruz in the semifinals of the Coast-To-Coast Athletic Conference Tournament at the University of Mary Washington.

The Captains, now 20-6 and the top seed in the C2C field, will play the host Eagles of Mary Washington in the Championship game Saturday night at 7:00 p.m. at Ron Rosner Arena.

C2C Freshman of the Year Toa Hollenbeck came off the bench to lead the Captains with 18 points, 13 coming in the opening half. Senior All-American Jahn Hines, the Player of the Year in the C2C, registered his second double-double of the season with 13 points and 12 rebounds. Fifth-year senior Jake Latta also reached double digits with a season-high 11 points.

“That was CNU basketball, and I’m really proud of our guys,” Head Coach John Krikorian said following the victory. “We just competed and played hard throughout. We were locked in and really did a great job defending and rebounding. There was a lot of trust and physical toughness and our effort was outstanding. Now we’ve got to build on this and carry it over to tomorrow night.”

UC Santa Cruz held a brief early lead, 3-2, before the Captains jumped ahead and never trailed again. CNU opened  a 13-point lead at halftime, 32-19, and stretched the advantage to as many as 16, 45-29, in the second half. The Banana Slugs, who end the season with an 11-15 record, cut the lead to as close as eight down the stretch, 52-44, but two key buckets from Jahn Hines helped thwart the comeback effort.

“I thought Jahn Hines’ three-pointer was a real dagger that helped stop the momentum that they had been building,” Krikorian continued. “He stepped up and did what he was supposed to do, and I was also really proud of his rebounding effort. Santa Cruz has great size, and Jahn along with Collin Hines and Jake Latta all were tremendous at both ends of the floor.”

Christopher Newport out-rebounded the Banana Slugs, 42-38, and held them to 30 percent shooting (16 of 53) for the game. The Captains also forced 25 turnovers and came away with 15 steals, led by five takeaways by junior Christian Wilson.

The victory marked the 11th time in 13 seasons the Captains have reached the 20-win mark under Krikorian. CNU has won 20 or more games 23 times in the 56-year history of the program, and have now reached the plateau nine straight seasons.

The University of Mary Washington, the second seed in the six-team tournament, advanced to the Championship game by ousting Salisbury University in the second semifinal game Friday night, 80-60. Marcus Kahn’s team is now 17-9, and Saturday’s title game will be the third straight between CNU and Mary Washington since the inception of the Coast-To-Coast Athletic Conference. The Captains have won both previous title matchups, two seasons ago at the Freeman Center and last year in Santa Cruz, Ca.

Christopher Newport won both games over the Eagles during the regular season, winning by two in Fredericksburg, 59-57, on January 17th, and  by nine, 80-71, at the Freeman Center on February 10th. The Captains have won the last 11 games over UMW, and lead the all-time series, 39-7.

Saturday’s winner will qualify for the NCAA Division III Tournament with the automatic bid from the C2C. Christopher Newport has advanced to the last seven tourneys, and won its first National Championship last season.

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