A buzzer-beater that was eerily similar to the UC Santa Barbara home game three weeks ago took down Cal Poly in its last home game of the season Saturday night.
After Shawn Lewis hit two clutch 3-pointers in the last 30 seconds, Northern Arizona’s Cameron Jones drained a wide-open shot behind the arc to defeat the Mustangs 59-56 in an ESPNU BracketBuster men’s basketball game at Mott Gym.
It was Lewis’ final home game of his career and he didn’t disappoint, scoring 25 points and grabbing nine rebounds while being honored before the game with his family.
Lewis, a three-year starter, moved into seventh place on Cal Poly’s all-time scoring list as well with 1,233 points.
Undaunted by the heartbreaking loss, Lewis vowed to use Saturday’s game as motivation as the Mustangs move ahead with Big West Conference games.
“I love this gym, I love coach (Joe) Callero, I love my teammates,” Lewis said. “This loss wasn’t the end. We still have some season left to play, and it won’t make us or break us.”
Cal Poly came into the game owning the best 3-point defense in the nation while Northern Arizona of the Big Sky Conference carried the best 3-point shooting percentage in the country.
The Mustangs contained the Lumberjacks to 14 percentage points below their NCAA leading average of 44.3 percent coming into Saturday.
But it was the final 3-point shot of the game that Cal Poly couldn’t stop as they fought their way back from a 27-23 halftime deficit.
After Lewis made 3-pointers with 25 seconds and again with 11 seconds left in the game, Northern Arizona called a timeout with eight seconds left and the score knotted at 56.
Cal Poly had no fouls to give without putting the Lumberjacks on the line. The Mustangs tried to trap Northern Arizona point guard Stallon Saldivar, who dished to teammate Eric Platt.
Platt found Jones — the team’s leading scorer at 19.6 per game — wide open on the right wing for the buzzer-beating win and his teammates swarmed him in a celebration similar to the one following the Gauchos’ win over Cal Poly on Jan. 27.
“This team is resilient,” Callero said after the game. “We won six in a row after the (UCSB loss). We went from fourth in the conference to second by ourselves. This kind of a loss builds character and teamwork.”
Callero said that the Mustangs overcommitted too early on Saldivar and the team will continue to work on its end-of-the-game defense. But Callero noted that the Mustangs didn’t want to foul and they were beaten by a tough shot.
“I’m glad we played this type of game,” Callero said. “You never want to play a game where you don’t show up and lose by 20.” Callero said that Lewis called the team together and made a point to thank the fans by forming a line and shaking hands after the bitter contest.
Lewis’ father, Kermit Lewis, who lives in Oakland, said he’s attended every game his son has played since he was in the third grade, including at Cal Poly, except for one — a University of Montana game in which he was caught in the snowstorm.
“I love the game and that’s why I come, but mostly I just enjoy seeing my son out there and supporting him,” Kermit Lewis said. “It hurt when I had to miss that Montana game,” he said with a chuckle.
David Hanson was the Mustangs’ second-leading scorer with 10 points to go with five rebounds but shot 4 of 15 from the field. Jones scored 19 points for Northern Arizona.