Both Cleveland State basketball teams lose big in the playoffs

The women’s team losing in the finals and the men’s team losing in the semifinals leads to uncertainty for the programs’ futures

By Mason Cole and Jamison Schroeder

The Cleveland State University Vikings women’s basketball team had quite a run in the 2022 Horizon League Tournament.

The Vikings’ first postseason game came in a quarterfinal matchup against Northern Kentucky on Mar. 3 at the Wolstein Center. Sophomore Destiny Leo scored 18 points for Cleveland State as they defeated Northern Kentucky 59-51.

After their quarterfinal victory, the Vikings advanced to the semifinals to face Green Bay in Indianapolis. The Phoenix were a familiar foe for Cleveland State as the two teams had recently played on Feb. 26, a game the Vikings won 66-64.

Senior Nadia Dumas shoots the ball. Photo courtesy of Vikings Athletics

In their rematch with Green Bay, the Vikings were led in scoring by seniors Isabelle Gradwell and Nadia Dumas who both finished with 12 points. Junior Gabriella Smith also added points to the scoreboard as she finished the game with 11.

The Vikings hit 10 three-point shots in their battle with Green Bay. Ultimately, the Vikings explosive offensive performance proved to be too much as Cleveland State thoroughly defeated the Phoenix 69-42 and earned their spot in the Horizon League Tournament championship game.

The Vikings would be making their first trip to the Horizon League championship game since the 2009-10 and their third appearance in school history against IUPUI, the top-seeded team in the tournament.

The Vikings traveled to Indiana Farmers Coliseum on Mar. 8 to take on the Jaguars in their toughest test of the season. 

IUPUI had control of the match early on as they led the Vikings 21-7 after the first quarter. But Cleveland State was able to battle back and cut the Jaguars’ lead to 25-17 in the second quarter thanks to clutch plays from Smith and junior Amele Ngwafang.

Senior Isabelle Gradwell dribbles past a defender. Photo courtesy of Vikings Athletics

After halftime, some three-point shooting from senior Isabella Geraci helped Cleveland State cut IUPUI’s lead to 49-45 in the fourth quarter. But despite fighting hard and scrapping until the very end, the Vikings ran out of time as IUPUI would win the Horizon League championship game 61-54.

Leo and Smith both led Cleveland State with 14 points scored in the game, Geraci followed close behind with eight. After the tournament, Leo and Smith were both named to the Horizon League Women’s Basketball All-Tournament team.

Meanwhile, the Cleveland State men’s basketball team no longer stands atop the Horizon League after losing a heartbreaker to Wright State in the Horizon League Championship game. Despite their best efforts, the Vikings fell 82 – 67 in a game where Wright State simply could not miss the basket. The Vikings never held a lead during the contest and any time that they would go on a scoring run, Wright State would answer back with force. 

The men’s team cheers after a win against Robert Morris. Photo by Matthew Keyerleber

The Vikings defense did manage to force 19 turnovers scoring 21 points off of them but Wright State led in nearly every other category. Cleveland State’s bench came through for their team and played their heart out scoring almost half the points for the team with 31 compared to Wright State’s 10. It is hard to win when your starters cannot score points and that was the plight of the Vikings during this game. Senior D’Moi Hodge led the team in scoring once again with 16 points while fellow senior Deshon Parker went 3-3 with eight points.

The Vikings are down but not out as they still have postseason play ahead of them due to their automatic bid into the NIT Tournament. The dates have yet to be announced for the tournament however should the Vikings win it all they will win yet another championship under head coach Dennis Gates.

Senior Deante Johnson dunks the ball over a Robert Morris defender. Photo by Matthew Keyerleber

The future is unknown for this Vikings team as 13 of the 19 rostered players are seniors expecting to graduate after this season is up. This has also been a team almost completely recruited by Coach Gates and his class of athletes is leaving relatively soon.

The team alongside Gates has helped bring a lot of notoriety to Cleveland State being the number one seed in two of Gates’ three years here and reaching March Madness back in the 2020-21 season. Cleveland State has been put back on the basketball map with thanks to this senior class so it will be bittersweet to see them leave. Hopefully, they can inspire the next group of guys to take this team even further in the coming years.

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