Cal State Dominguez Hills celebrates historic Elite Eight run

There wasn’t an epiphany. The conclusion that this group of girls performed basketball at a degree unseen at a faculty eternally within the shadows of USC and UCLA got here progressively, one victory after one other.

By the point Cal State Dominguez Hills was 19-0, it was abundantly clear unprecedented accomplishments had been on the horizon, that the potential for one thing unimaginable in some other 12 months was inside its grasp.

The Toros (31-2) will journey to Missouri to organize to play Catawba (28-5) — a school in Salisbury, N.C. — within the NCAA Division II Elite Eight starting Monday. They’ve already received the West Area championship for the primary time whereas internet hosting the event for the primary time. Additionally they received the California Collegiate Athletic Assn. title.

The Cal State Dominguez Hills girls’s basketball group and assist workers rejoice after advancing to the Elite Eight for the primary time in class historical past.

(Matt Brown / Cal State Dominguez Hills)

They usually 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 particular, I wasn’t certain for some time,” Dominguez Hills coach John Bonner stated. “In November, even by means of December, wrapping up our preseason opponents, it began to develop into clear this was a special group, the best way we had been profitable and our chemistry.

“We acknowledged one thing good is about to occur this 12 months. However we couldn’t predict it’d be this good.”

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

“The factor folks don’t see on a regular basis, we’re far more than simply athletes,” stated Bonner, who holds a grasp’s diploma in counseling and household remedy. “The group is linked, they spend numerous time collectively. We speak about social justice points, girls points. We perceive how clever and cerebral they’re and the way a lot they need to make a distinction when basketball is over.”

“Our mantra is disrupt, defend and rebound. We’ll use a wide range of presses relying on our opponent. We attempt to take folks out of their movement and make them play a special means.”

— Cal State Dominguez Hills coach John Bonner

Senior management is supplied by guard Dawnyel Lair, the CCAA participant of the 12 months who started her profession at Wichita State and left for a group faculty in New Mexico earlier than transferring to Dominguez Hills earlier than her junior 12 months.

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

“It’s a job I inherited, I didn’t actually search for it,” Lair stated, who earned Girls’s Basketball Coaches Assn. first group All-American honors. “We do have a fairly younger group and it seems they need to hear from me. I simply take it as a problem. I’m the oldest of my siblings, so I’m used to folks wanting as much as me. The group is sort of a household. I’m like an enormous sister to everyone in a means.”

Through 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 group reduce it down on March 13 in Carson. The Toros celebrated advancing to the Elite Eight for the primary time in class historical past.

(Jena Rouser / Cal State Dominguez Hills)

“She is a bit of quiet and her teammates needed her so converse up,” Bonner stated. “She is tremendous humble. Once we choose groups for intrasquad scrimmages, she chooses teammates who don’t get numerous minutes. She’s a team-first individual.”

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

“Our mantra is disrupt, defend and rebound,” Bonner stated. “We’ll use a wide range of presses relying on our opponent. We attempt to take folks out of their movement and make them play a special means.”

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

“All of the video games are going to return right down to us maintaining eye on our identification,” Lair stated. “We need to perceive what they do, however the primary factor is to proceed doing what we’ve been doing all season.”