Bonner and Toros Get #1 Seed in NCAA Tourney
After the greatest season in program history, the Cal State Dominguez Hills women’s basketball team earned a top seed in the NCAA Western Regionals, which begin Friday, March 10, and will be held in the Torodome on the CSUDH campus.
The Toros currently hold a program-best 28-2 season including a historic 19-straight wins to start the season and the California Collegiate Athletic Association regular season championship, which earned CSUDH the right to host the NCAA West Regionals for the first time in school history.
“It definitely brings awareness to the significance of the CCAA conference, being that we have four teams in the NCAA tournament playing here in the West Region Championships,” said Toro head coach John Bonner.
“With that, it also brings exposure to what our small campus is able to do on a consistent basis. Having the ability to host both in men’s soccer and now women’s basketball sends a message in the sports world that we are a department and campus that is invested in the athletics portion of the student experience. It shines a light on the hard work and dedication of CSUDH staff, coaches, and students on a national level.”
All games will be played in the Torodome, which seats 4,100. Its multi-purpose facility is located on the campus and primarily serves as the home to both women’s and men’s basketball teams, as well as CSUDH’s volleyball program.
It is also host every spring to the California Interscholastic Federation Los Angeles City section basketball championships, and has been used for CSUDH Graduation ceremonies, and various other regional sporting events.
“Our players were very excited,” said Bonner. “They’ve been fortunate enough to create history and memories that will last forever. They know they have invested the work and it’s such a blessing for them to receive a berth for the work. They couldn’t be more elated for earning this opportunity.”
Bonner was the mastermind behind this year’s squad. The Bakersfield native is in his seventh season at the helm, and brought in players who are smart, intelligent, and team-first minded.
The 2023 campaign was a complete team effort that saw the Toros constantly push the ball up and down the floor. Statistically, their style showed domination by ranking 2nd in NCAA Division II with over 25 free throw attempts per game, 5th in made free throws, 7th in steals, 12th in scoring and 13th in rebound margin.
Led by Dawnyel Lair, who won both CCAA Player of the Year and CCAA Defensive Player of the Year, the Toros saw their share of postseason awards. Lair averaged 15 points per game to go with 9 rebounds while earning CCAA Player of the week honors four times this season, and the D2SIDA West Region Player of the Week once.
The former Fairfax High standout had a season-high 25 points vs Stanislaus State on January 26, and a season high 17 boards vs San Francisco State on January 14.
CCAA Freshman of The Year honors went to Nala Williams, formally of Long Beach Poly. She played in 28 games and averaged 13 ppg to go with 5 blocks, 5 rebounds and 3 assists per contest.
Asia Jordan also landed on the CCAA’s 1st-team. The Lakewood High product averaged 13 points and nearly 8 rebounds per game during her sophomore campaign.
Joe’ l Benoit and Danyell Booker received honorable mention All-CCAA nods to round out the player accolades.
“It shows the respect that each of our conference coaches have for the work that the players have individually put in over the course of the season,” said Bonner. “These players bought in from the very beginning and remained humble all season. They didn’t seek out awards, they sought opportunities to win games and as a result were able to attain individual accolades.”
Bonner, for his efforts in putting together an historic season so far, was named CCAA Coach of the Year for the first time in his career, and was icing on the cake for the team.
“Coach Bonner’s professionalism, work ethic and amazing attitude have been a blessing to the team and University,” begins Eric McCurdy, CSUDH Associate Vice President / Director of Athletics.
“Our President, Dr. Parham, is proud of the leadership Coach Bonner has exhibited as a positive role model and representative of CSUDH. Coach Bonner is not a hidden secret anymore.
“Hosting [this event] allows the country to recognize the great work our student-athletes, coach Bonner, and his staff have accomplished this season, and we are striving to continue and sustain this level of excellence that will allow us to again become a household name in Division II women’s basketball.”
Bonner echoed McCurdy’s statement, and expanded on the overall success of the Athletics Department. “We are coming in after a great run last spring with our women’s softball program winning the NCAA West Region, advancing to the World Series, and reaching the Championship series, which was followed by our men’s soccer team winning the CCAA Championship this fall and making it the third round of the NCAA postseason, and now we are working this winter by continuing that success.
“The excitement for CSUDH Athletics is at an all-time high, and these successes provide additional inspiration for the campus environment, staff, faculty, and students.”
They are now headed to the post season as the 4th ranked team nationally, the program’s highest ranking ever. “March Madness” will come to the Torodome for the first time ever starting Friday when the Toros open NCAA play hosting Cal Poly Pomona at 7:30.
This is a major event for Carson and all of Southern California. McCurdy summed the weekend up, beaming with excitement and anticipation for Friday’s battle. “The success of the women’s basketball team has been great for campus spirit. It has energized students, faculty, and staff with pride around CSUDH, and people are are super-excited about the team success and accomplishments.
“We can’t wait to see the Carson community show up Friday night!”