Atherton, Calif. – The California Maritime men's basketball team defeated Simpson University 96-82 on Monday night to capture the California Pacific Conference championship. This is the third consecutive year that the Keelhaulers have captured the championship and advance to next week's NAIA National Tournament in Point Lookout, Missouri held at the College of the Ozarks. The win tonight was also the Keelhaulers' 27th victory, which sets a school record for the third straight year. This will be the third consecutive trip to the National Tournament for Cal Maritime.
As was the case during two regular season meetings, Simpson came out firing. Led by sophomore guard Dalton Thacker, the Redhawks raced to a double digit lead and led by 16 points several times in the first half. Fortunately for Cal Maritime, a late first half run cut Simpson's lead to 5 at the break (48-43).
The second half proved to be a different story as Cal Maritime's defended much better in holding Simpson to 34 second half points. Led by Anthony Simi's 30 points, the Keelhaulers coupled their defensive execution with an offensive explosion. Cal Maritime shot a blistering 55% from the field while forcing Simpson into 17 turnovers.
As has been the case throughout the year, Cal Maritime's five seniors led the charge as all five finished in double figures. Grant Blaser (25 points), Erik Hanson (12 points 8 rebounds), Casey Healy (11 points 5 assists), and Jaquai Wiley (10 points) joined Simi in double figures to lead the offensive attack.
Head Coach Bryan Rooney commented on the championship, "I am extremely proud of our team. We faced some adversity, especially in the first half, and our guys showed tremendous resolve. The support of our fans was outstanding. It sure felt like a home game and we were happy we could reward the tremendous Keelhauler Family. This is a special group to coach and we look forward to the opportunity to test ourselves against the best teams in the country."
Cal Maritime now turns its focus to a trip to the Midwest for the 2014 NAIA National Championships starting on March 12. The National Championship bracket will be announced during a live video show on Wednesday, March 5th at 6pm. Stay tuned to www.cmakeelhaulers.com for all Keelhauler updates.