The nets came down for the final time in the 2012-2013 season at the Patriot Center. Unfortunately for the Patriots, it was the Broncos of Santa Clara University who stepped up to cut them down.
On paper, it looked as though Mason would be outmatched in the series, as Santa Clara had a highly efficient offense on the season, living and dying on their efficiency from beyond the arc.
In the second tier postseason tournament of college basketball, coach Paul Hewitt was looking to participate in this tournament to gain postseason experience for the young team by electing to compete in the College Basketball Invitational. The CBI began in 2008 and was most notable for being the tournament won by Virginia Commonwealth University in 2010, the year before the Rams would go on to shock the college basketball world by advancing all the way into the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament in 2011.
In a best of three series played over the course of last week, the Patriots first traveled out to Santa Clara, California for game one of the CBI last Monday night. It was a game where Mason’s biggest lead of the night against the Broncos was four points with 9:43 left in the first half. Once the Broncos rallied and grabbed hold of the lead, they never looked back the rest of that night, going on to win the game, 81-73.
Santa Clara senior guard Kevin Foster led the night in scoring with 28 points, going seven of 15 from the field and five of 11 from three-point land.
Mason forward Jonathan Arledge continued his solid play from prior rounds of the CBI to lead the Patriots in scoring in game one with 21 points and going an efficient eight of 12 from the field.
Both teams traveled back to Fairfax to host game two of the series and game three if necessary. Due to the northern Virginia regional college fair on Wednesday and the Green Day concert on Thursday, the Patriots packed the RAC on Wednesday night to force a game three.
In front of a noisy, capacity crowd of 1,280, the Patriots accomplished a 73-66 victory forcing a game three back at the Patriot Center.
After an off game in game one, junior guard Sherrod Wright stormed back as the focal point of coach Paul Hewitt’s offense in game two, finishing with a game-high 20 points and a double-double with 10 rebounds.
The intimate setting of the RAC was beloved by the Mason players and coaches. Coach Hewitt seemed to be open to the idea of a future preseason or early regular season game to be held once again in the RAC.
Coming off the emotional high of game two, Mason would have to maintain focus, but issues that have plagued the Patriots all season reared their ugly heads.
Mason took hold of game three early and went into halftime leading 37-33. With 11:53 remaining in the game, Mason trailed the Broncos 55-50, and after efforts to regain the lead, Mason would not go ahead of the Broncos the rest of the way ultimately falling 80-77.
Foster would be named MVP of the CBI and led the Broncos in scoring with 24 points. It was an intense head-to-head battle with Wright in a battle of opposing key players. Wright ended the night tied with Foster for the scoring lead with 24 points as well for Mason.
Mason and the Fairfax faithful can be proud of the team’s performance in the CBI and is a much stronger note to end the season on than the heartbreaking loss to Northeastern in the semifinals of the CAA tournament.
Mason now looks to build on this experience and use it to better compete as the newest member of the Atlantic 10.