Let’s Do Some Dancin’!

By Rory Miller, Assistant Sports Information Director

Re-posted from Chico State Athletics.

For fans, coaches and players assembled upstairs Sunday night at Madison Bear Garden, the atmosphere was one of anxiousness for the Chico State women’s basketball team, as the Wildcats waited to see if their late-season heroics were enough to earn a berth into the NCAA Championship Tournament.

Senior Jay Flores has earned All-Tournament team recognition this season and will be storming the court at the NCAA Championship Tournament this weekend in La Jolla, Ca.

For the Chico State men, there was more of an air of confidence, as the Wildcats, knowing they had locked up an NCAA West Region berth, awaited word of their seed, first round opponent and where the ’Cats would be playing. It turned out to be a great night to be a Wildcat, as the NCAA Selection Show included both the Chico State men’s and women’s teams in their respective fields of 64 for a chance to play for the national title.

The Chico State women grabbed the No. 8 seed in the West, and will travel to San Diego to take on the region’s top seed, UC San Diego, on Friday. On the men’s side, the Wildcat men earned the fifth seed in the West Region, and will head to Bellingham, Wash. Friday for a rematch with No. 4 Humboldt State – the team which beat the ’Cats Saturday in the CCAA Championship Tournament final – in opening round NCAA Championship Tournament action.

Most seasons, the NCAA Selection Show waits until the very end to announce the West Region teams, but this year the announcement came in the first five minutes, and when the women’s bracket revealed Chico State among the eight selections, a huge cheer erupted at The Bear. Players hugged, coaches wiped their brows in relief and received well wishes from fans, as the excitement of more March basketball was at last a reality.

Senior Natasha Smith gained the title of All-CCAA Second Team for the 2011-12 season.

“I’m extremely excited for the team, and especially for fifth-year senior Natasha Smith,” Head Coach Brian Fogel said following Sunday’s announcement. “The team kept improving week-to-week, and we’re playing our best basketball of the season right now. We’re a confident group, and we’re planning on making some noise this week in San Diego.”

The Wildcat women, 18-10 overall, closed out the regular season with five straight wins, then knocked off Humboldt State 62-60 in the CCAA Championship Tournament before bowing Saturday to eventual tourney champion Cal State Monterey Bay. Friday’s NCAA West Region opener will mark the third time Chico State and UC San Diego have met this season, with the Tritons – ranked No. 1 in the country starting the week – winning both contests, though they needed double overtime to down the ’Cats Jan. 7 at Acker Gym.

The cheers at The Bear were just as loud for the Chico State men, as the Selection Show announcement officially gave the program its first NCAA Championship Tournament appearance since the 2004-05 season.

The Wildcats, 24-7 overall, are also heading into the West Regional on an impressive roll, having won 10 of their last 12 contests. Friday’s first round match-up with Humboldt State will be the fourth time this season the ’Cats and Lumberjacks have gone head-to-head, with Chico State winning two of the first three.

March 9-12, 2012
La Jolla, Calif.

Friday, March 9  – First Round
No. 1 UC San Diego (28-2) vs. No. 8 Chico State (18-10)
No. 2 Alaska-Anchorage (27-4) vs. No. 7 Cal State L.A. (18-11)
No. 3 Grand Canyon (23-3) vs. No. 6 Cal Poly Pomona (19-8)
No. 4 Western Washington (21-7) vs. No. 5 Cal State Monterey Bay (21-8)

Saturday, March 10 – Second Round
Regional Semifinal No. 1
Regional Semifinal No. 2

Monday, March 12 – Third Round
Regional Championship Game

March 9-12, 2012
Bellingham, Wash.

Friday, March 9 – First Round
No. 1 Western Washington (25-5) vs. No. 8 Grand Canyon (19-7)
No. 2 Alaska-Anchorage (22-6) vs. No. 7 Montana State-Billings (18-11)
No. 3 Seattle Pacific (21-7) vs. No. 6 Dixie State (20-6)
No. 4 Humboldt State (22-7) vs. No. 5 Chico State (24-7)

Saturday, March 10 – Second Round
Regional Semifinal No. 1
Regional Semifinal No. 2

Monday, March 12 – Third Round
Regional Championship Game

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