Titans' Kerry Boagni Leaves His Shooting Slump on the Bench

Times Staff Writer

Some of baseball's best hitters will tell you the only way to get out of a slump is to keep swinging until you hit your way out. Kerry Boagni, one of Cal State Fullerton's best shooters, tried a different approach to break out of his recent shooting slump.

Boagni, under orders from Coach George McQuarn, tried to sit his way out.

Boagni spent the second half of Monday's game at the University of the Pacific just a few seats down from McQuarn on the Titan bench. Never mind that Boagni was considered the Titans' only legitimate offensive threat not on crutches.

After Boagni made 1 of 6 shot attempts in the first half against UOP, McQuarn told his 6-foot 8-inch senior to take a seat and make himself comfortable. He remained on the bench for the rest of the game, watching Fullerton lose, 50-46.

Thursday night against UC Irvine, Boagni was back in the Titan starting lineup. And if there is a statement to be made by his performance against the Anteaters, it's that he prefers playing to watching.

Boagni hit 6 of 8 shots--including three crucial jumpers to help hold off an Irvine comeback in the second half--and finished with 12 points, 3 assists and 3 steals to help Fullerton beat UCI, 66-54, in front of 2,531 spectators in Titan Gym.

"It was his best game in a long time," McQuarn said.

Boagni might be the first to admit that that isn't exactly saying much. After finishing as the team's leading scorer in five of the Titans' first six games, Boagni's shooting woes began. In game seven, he went 1 for 7 against Texas Tech.

Then, on Dec. 22 against Portland, Boagni watched teammate and roommate Kevin Henderson suffer a foot injury that would sideline him for the next several weeks. In the same game, Boagni was 0 for 9 from the floor. In the six games since Henderson's injury, Boagni was averaging 8.4 points per game and shooting 31.4% (27 of 86) from the field.

But there were no signs of a slump against Irvine. Only a series of swishes that came when the Titans needed it most.

Fullerton led, 29-21, at halftime, but was outscored, 8-0, at the outset of the second half. Wayne Engelstad tied it at 29-29 with a driving layup along the baseline at the 17:53 mark. Boagni hit an 18-footer from the left side 48 seconds later to give the Titans a lead they would never relinquish.

Boagni went on to score eight more points, including a crowd-pleasing, turnaround jumper from the baseline with the 45-second clock about to expire.

"Time was running out," Boagni said. "I had flashbacks of high school, man."

It also sparked memories of some happier times this season, when Boagni didn't have to worry about slumps or finding a seat with a good view. Henderson, who has been a spectator for the last seven games, liked what he saw.

"I kept telling him the law of averages was going to catch up with him," Henderson said. "I feel good for him.

"He didn't get as down as some people might have. When you're a shooter and your shots aren't dropping, you've just got to keep shooting."

Of course, you can't shoot from the bench, and McQuarn was rewarded for making Boagni's stay there a brief one.

"He knocked down some very big baskets for us," McQuarn said.

Boagni admitted that he didn't exactly enjoy watching the second half of the UOP game Monday.

"It was frustrating," he said. "But you've got to believe in what the coach is telling you.

"I've been struggling, and the coach has just stressed that I had to quit feeling sorry for myself. This was a very enjoyable game."

UCI Coach Bill Mulligan has had better nights.

"Offensively, we've just got to be able to handle pressure," he said. "Defensively, I'd have played it the same. We had a hand in Boagni's face a lot, I thought."

That wasn't enough to prevent Boagni from playing his way out of a slump.

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