What a season, what a team.
I’ve thought all along that I’ve never seen a team in any sport, or at any level like this Fullerton team – whether it be in light of all the obstacles that they faced or not. That’s why it was not surprising that when Bob Burton called it the greatest year in his 35 year coaching career, it affirmed that a team like this does not come around very often. And I don’t mean just at Fullerton, I mean anywhere in America.
This group of players were true pioneers as they dared to charge the perilous fields of change, and succeeded in changing the perception of Fullerton basketball. Not only to the Big West Conference and college basketball in general, but to the very people that had been around the program, past or present, who thought it was not possible.
As a tribute to this once in a lifetime team, here are thirty great moments of the season.
No. 30. “First of Many” – LB’s 21 points on 5-9 three point shooting defeats Colgate for the fist win of the season back in Connecticut. The short handed Titans needed at least a split in that tourney and got it.
No. 29. “Fresh, Old-School Style” – The Titans don “Throwback” warm-up suits when they take the floor in the home finale versus CSUN. Seems meaningless? It’s a glimpse into the character of the club. A fun loving team with everyone on the same page is a rarity in sport, and to get that many cats agreeing to do something like that just shows great team unity. The uniforms, rather ugly mid 90’s fare, gave the uniforms a chance to be worn by real basketball players. (Drums and cymbal please).
No. 28. The King Returns” – Longtime Fullerton basketball fan Bill Harvey makes special guest appearances in Section K for the UOP and CSUN games. Harvey quit following Fullerton basketball in the late 80’s and the incredible home court advantage Fullerton had once experienced went with him, not coincidentally.
No. 27. JB2: “I’m coming out” – Something like a phenomenon. Something like a phenomenon. Get it? Something like a phenomenon. All right enough of that. Six points, ten boards and one unforgettable rejection in one half at UCI. Just awesome.
No. 26. “Ho-Hum” – Ralphy beats the buzzer before halftime at the Big West Tournament versus UCSB. The shot dampened the hopes of UCSB to pull off the upset but what the shot really showed was the essence of Ralphy. After making the shot, Ralphy goes flying four feet in the air over chairs as he heads back to the locker room. Ralphy: The human form of an energy drink.
No. 25. “Denver Get-Back” – Fullerton hands Denver a ten point loss on their return visit to Fullerton. Quality win where JB and Ralphy started to click together.
No. 24. “Defense at Fullerton?” – Fullerton uses stifling defense to stop UCSB at Fullerton 68-59. The defensive performance prompted a key eight game run where Fullerton’s defensive intensity fueled a 7 wins of 8.
No. 23. “Davis Massacre” - An 89-61 Fullerton home win over Davis was reminiscent of many moons ago when a 30 point Fullerton win was something you almost expected. This win would give Fullerton a tooth for destroying teams, which is something that was not seen in these parts for well over a decade.
No. 22. “Showdown” - Fullerton takes the floor at virtually the same time UOP does in front of a wild Fullerton home crowd of almost 3800. The teams very much acknowledged each other to put nicely. Good stuff.
No. 20. “Ralphy :Coast to Coast” – Not talking about the television exposure he deserved against Georgetown but rather his rebound in traffic at home versus UCSB and coast to coast layup with the foul in yet another sensational moment.
No. 19. “Harper from downtown” – Jermaine Harper’s 25 foot bomb in the last seconds in overtime gets Fullerton past Eastern Washington in a key non-conference win.
No. 18. “Super-Charged Ralphy in San Diego” – Ralphy takes the floor in warm-ups at San Diego State. Pumping his fists repeatedly as he takes the floor, redemption is at hand. The sweet smell of success is around the bend. Great moment for him and the fans that made the trip down there. To think that was about a mere 100 days ago and the whirlwind season going full circle is bizarre.
No. 17. “No, HE IS the King” – Yaphett King scores 7 of Fullerton’s last 9 points to get maybe the biggest win of the year at CSUN. He tied the game to force OT and went nuts in overtime. Yet again he earns his crown.
No. 16. “Thunder….na na na na na na na na THUNDER!” – The first ten minutes of the second half versus UCI at Fullerton sees Fullerton go completely ballistic. A 36-19 run has Fullerton nearly erase a 20 point halftime deficit. Register columnist Randy Youngman said it evoked memories of the great Loyola Marymount teams of the late 80’s. The morgue begins the early stages of it’s awakening, as pockets of Titan Gym emerge from their cardboard state and utter some pre-historic noises.
No. 15. “The King Saves Fullerton” – Yaphett King comes through yet again at Cal Poly with a three point play in the waning seconds, saving Fullerton from losing it’s huge lead to the Mustangs.
No. 14. “Indelible Image” – Fullerton takes the floor to start the second half at home versus UOP. Yaphett King leads the charge in front of thousands of screaming Titan fans, throwing the ball forty feet in the air as the team gets ready to battle #17 UOP to the wire.
No. 13. “Foot on the Line!” – UCI makes what appears to be a game tying three-pointer at the Bren Center in the last seconds of the Fullerton/UCI rematch. However, after five minutes of reviewing tape the officials prudently rule the shot a two pointer and Fullerton is in with the win. The name of the UCI player has been changed to protect the ignorant.
No. 12. “Ralphy on the Break” – Ralphy’s three point play puts Fullerton up 82-79 with 3:45 remaining versus UOP. A beautiful fast break finish with the foul, Titan Gym erupts.
No. 11. “JB..JB..JB..JB..” – Jamaal Brown’s sweet move in the lane puts Fullerton ahead of UCI again by one, and his clutch free throw shooting gets it done for the Titans. Clutch road play man. Clutch road play.
No. 10. “Check 1, 2 Check 1,2” - Well this may be the greatest moment of all –time as Yaphett King grabs the mic after the win versus Idaho. Yaphett gave props to different sections of fans in Titan Gym and you know, you know that this team is about to take this thing to the next level. Yaphett, HE IS the King. Great move Yaphett. Instant classic! The fans and this team had such a great affinity for each other it seemed. It was always a party.
No. 9. “Hardy. From his Back. Are you kidding me?” – Hardy Asprilla makes an unbelievable shot from his back in the final seconds of a narrow win over UCR early in the year. He was fouled on the play and made the key free throw to rescue Fullerton. What a shot and what a player!
No. 8. “Harper Goes Nuts at the ACC” – Jermaine Harper puts on a shooting display at the Anaheim Convention Center versus Utah State. One of the greatest shooting performances in school history.
No. 7. “Titans Clutch up at CSUN” – Fullerton ends regulation on a 14-3 run in the final 5:38 to defeat CSUN in overtime. This game was huge and really set a tone.
No. 6. “LB’s amazing three point Play” – LB makes the most incredible three point play while being pushed on his back to give Fullerton a one point lead with a minute left at home versus Utah State.
No. 5. “JB with the tip in!” – JB tips in the game winner to close out Fullerton’s home season with a win over CSUN. I don’t think anybody wanted that game going to overtime, and Fullerton would have failed to make the NIT without it. Huge tip in.
No. 4. “A Shooting Display Fables are Made of” – LB goes on a three point rampage at Oregon State and takes ownership of Corvallis Oregon and all surrounding cities in the process. He hit four of them in a 140 second stretch as the 10,000 fans were aghast with pure horror. LB, half man – half amazing.
No. 3. “It’s Called a Dagger” – Yaphett King knocks down a three versus Utah State to put Fullerton up 64-60 with about 20 seconds to go. There is little doubt in my mind something bad would have happened had he not made that big shot. In other years we don’t win that game. Normally, other teams were making those kinds of shots on us, but times have changed.
No. 2. “Gold Rush” – Fullerton’s 57 second half points at USF was the 2004-05 team on full display, with all parts clicking. I’m not sure who could have played with Fullerton in those 20 minutes. Just the best basketball perhaps this team has seen since the late 70’s. Unbelievable. JB in the zone. Ralphy gutting it out. Everything just going right. Andrew Awad on the bench too.
No. 1. “The People’s Shot” – Ralphy’s game winner in overtime at the buzzer at Oregon State is not just for him but for his teammates, the fans, the coaches, and all the haters. What a team.
A lot of people have their hands out now wanting and expecting more and I'm not sure it's fair. You don't just replace a Ralphy, Yaphett, and Hardy and all their intangibles. Is Fullerton on the rise? Yes. But never will it have another team with this much heart. Oh yea, they could play too. Hell yes they could play.