Cal State Dominguez Hills celebrates historic Elite Eight run

There wasn’t an epiphany. The realization that this group of girls performed basketball at a stage unseen at a college perpetually within the shadows of USC and UCLA got here steadily, one victory after one other.

By the time Cal State Dominguez Hills was 19-0, it was abundantly clear unprecedented accomplishments have been on the horizon, that the potential for one thing unimaginable in every other yr was inside its grasp.

The Toros (31-2) will journey to Missouri to arrange to play Catawba (28-5) — a university in Salisbury, N.C. — within the NCAA Division II Elite Eight starting Monday. They’ve already gained the West Region championship for the primary time whereas internet hosting the match for the primary time. They additionally gained the California Collegiate Athletic Assn. title.

The Cal State Dominguez Hills ladies’s basketball crew and help workers have a good time after advancing to the Elite Eight for the primary time at school historical past.

(Matt Brown / Cal State Dominguez Hills)

And they ascended to No. 4 within the nationwide rankings, rarefied air for a program that had been ranked solely as soon as earlier than at No. 18 in 1984-85.

“To be this special, I wasn’t sure for a while,” Dominguez Hills coach John Bonner stated. “In November, even through December, wrapping up our preseason opponents, it started to become clear this was a different team, the way we were winning and our chemistry.

“We recognized something good is about to happen this year. But we couldn’t predict it’d be this good.”

On-court excellence was at all times secondary to the household environment and camaraderie Bonner has fostered since taking the reins earlier than the 2016-17 season. His first crew was 7-20, and never till going 13-12 final season have been the Toros on the sunny aspect of .500.

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“The thing people don’t see all the time, we are much more than just athletes,” stated Bonner, who holds a grasp’s diploma in counseling and household remedy. “The team is connected, they spend a lot of time together. We talk about social justice issues, women issues. We understand how intelligent and cerebral they are and how much they want to make a difference when basketball is over.”

“Our mantra is disrupt, defend and rebound. We will use a variety of presses depending on our opponent. We try to take people out of their flow and make them play a different way.”

— Cal State Dominguez Hills coach John Bonner

Senior management is supplied by guard Dawnyel Lair, the CCAA participant of the yr who started her profession at Wichita State and left for a neighborhood school in New Mexico earlier than transferring to Dominguez Hills earlier than her junior yr.

Most of her Toros teammates are sophomores and freshmen, which bodes properly for sustaining this season’s success.

“It’s a role I inherited, I didn’t really look for it,” Lair stated, who earned Women’s Basketball Coaches Assn. first crew All-American honors. “We do have a pretty young group and it turns out they want to hear from me. I just take it as a challenge. I’m the oldest of my siblings, so I’m used to people looking up to me. The team is like a family. I’m like a big sister to everybody in a way.”

During the preseason, Bonner handed canine tags to every participant and requested them to current one to a teammate they regard as inspirational. Lair ended up with a big handful.

Cal State Dominguez Hills coach John Bonner stands on a ladder and holds up a net his team cut down.

Cal State Dominguez Hills coach John Bonner holds up a web after his crew lower it down on March 13 in Carson. The Toros celebrated advancing to the Elite Eight for the primary time at school historical past.

(Jena Rouser / Cal State Dominguez Hills)

“She is a little quiet and her teammates wanted her so speak up,” Bonner stated. “She is super humble. When we pick teams for intrasquad scrimmages, she chooses teammates who don’t get a lot of minutes. She’s a team-first person.”

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Lair, who attended Fairfax High, averages 13.9 factors, main a balanced offense that additionally will get 13 factors a recreation from sophomore ahead Asia Jordan of Lakewood High and freshman Nala Williams of Long Beach Poly. Jordan was MVP of the West Regional.

“Our mantra is disrupt, defend and rebound,” Bonner stated. “We will use a variety of presses depending on our opponent. We try to take people out of their flow and make them play a different way.”

The Toros have had their approach with practically each opponent up to now. What do they find out about Catawba? They aren’t positive it issues.

“All the games are going to come down to us keeping eye on our identity,” Lair stated. “We want to understand what they do, but the main thing is to continue doing what we’ve been doing all season.”