By Thomas Gase Vallejo Times Herald
Like the Golden State Warriors, the Cal Maritime men's basketball team has a lot of new faces on its squad this year playing together for the first time. Like the Warriors, the question was how long it would take for the Keelhaulers to begin jelling as a team.
With a solid 84-74 Tuesday night home win over the Oregon Institute of Technology, the case could be made that it has taken just seven games.
Led by a strong first half from returning senior Daniel Radford, followed by strong play from guards Daniel Solis, Justin Eisen and Phil Randles in the second half, Cal Maritime won its fourth straight game and improved to 5-2 on the season.
"We're starting to gel. Everyone knows each others tendencies now," Solis said. "Every knows their roles and everyone is happy with their roles. Everyone is playing hard and doing anything for the team."
The Keelhaulers were a bit sluggish early in the contest as they trailed 13-9 with 11:58 left in the first half. Then Radford's offense got hotter than a summer day in Death Valley.
The 6-foot-4 senior had a layup to tie the game at 18-all and then hit a 3-pointer to put the Keelhaulers up 21-18 with about six minutes left in the first half. Radford had a layup on an alley-oop off a nice pass from Eisen and then finished up the first half with back-to-back baskets, the first one a layup off a steal and the second a 3-pointer in the corner with 10 seconds remaining to put Cal Maritime up 34-28.
Radford finished with a team-high 18 points in the first half before finishing the contest with a game-high 32 points.
"Well like everything with this team, it starts on the defensive end," Radford said. "Our defensive stops lead to offensive shots for us and leads to us getting momentum."
Despite Cal Maritime leading by six at the intermission, the Keelhaulers did not let up at all the first few minutes of the second half.
"Coach told us that a basketball game is not won or lost in one half," Radford said. "We had to come out in the second half and pretend like we were starting over at 0-0."
Cal Maritime built the lead to 11 points at 49-38 after a layup from Bryce Rose and a short jumper by Adam Armstead. The lead stayed at 11 points for a few minutes until Cal Maritime went on a 16-8 run to build its biggest lead of the night at 72-53.
The run was sparked by sharp shooting beyond the 3-point line from Eisen, Solis and Randles. The trio combined for 27 points and five 3-pointers in the second half.
"We were getting a little stagnant on offense in the first half," Solis said. "Coach never really talks about offense at halftime, he focuses on defense. But he does preach for us to always look for A-shots. By that I mean grade A shots like wide open 3-pointers. Always look for shots like those."
Randles, who finished the contest with 12 points, was also happy to get a win and play well in the second half.
"We've always had good shooters on this team, we just weren't knocking them down in the first half," Randles said. "We just needed to calm down a little in the second half. We saw they were running a lot of zone so we had to keep moving the ball and knocking down some shots."
Eisen agreed with his teammate after the victory.
"We had to keep playing aggressive and keep playing together," the 6-foot guard said.
Although Cal Maritime had built a big lead, the Owls (4-3) would not give up.
Senior guard Joel Yellow Owl went off for 29 points, 21 of them coming in the second half. His 3-pointer with about two minutes left cut the lead to 77-69 and his layup with 33 seconds left cut the lead to 81-74.
That's as close as the Owls would get, however, as Solis knocked down two free throws and Radford hit a free throw to give the Keelhaulers a 10-point victory.