It’s not unusual for fans to see Sammy the Slug at the Kaiser Permanente Arena during UCSC basketball games, but on Feb. 8 he will be there for the Santa Cruz Warriors game as well.
Kaiser Permanente Arena will host Slug Night, featuring the women’s basketball team versus Bethesda Christian at 3 p.m. and the Santa Cruz Warriors versus the Los Angeles D-Fenders at 7:30 p.m.
“For us, it’s an opportunity for the Santa Cruz Warriors to acknowledge that UCSC basketball and Kaiser Permanente Arena has been a great success for its first year,” said the Santa Cruz Warrior’s public and community relations manager Matt de Nesnera, referencing the recent contract allowing the Slugs to play their home games at Kaiser. “The women are playing great, and the men are playing well at home this year. It’s fun for us and it’s what we like to do to acknowledge UCSC basketball teams.”
In the past the Warriors had a UCSC Night, but this will be the first one since UCSC basketball teams have played at Kaiser all season. The doubleheader will be extra special for the seniors on the UCSC women’s basketball team, as it is senior night for the Slugs as well.
UCSC students, faculty and staff can pay the discounted price of $20 to watch both games. In order to receive the offer, they must call the Santa Cruz Warriors office, type in a discount code online or directly visit the Warriors’ office downtown and give their UCSC identification numbers.
“It’s UCSC senior night, and we have three seniors that have put four years of endless work and dedication into this program,” said junior forward Leah Parrish. “We’re excited to have some great competition to a team we only beat by four points, and there’s nothing like a win to honor our three seniors.”
Kaiser has been an excellent home for the women’s basketball team, as they are undefeated in the venue this season. They have been playing great with their seven-game winning streak and adjusted well to their new home.
“We love playing at the arena,” Parrish said. “We had a much higher turnout of fans at our home games since we moved from the West Field House. We are really thankful to the whole Warriors organization for allowing us to play at Kaiser Permanente Arena.”
UCSC Night is not just senior night for the team, but also a crucial game to win because they are on the cusp of qualifying for the NCAA tournament. The game will be filled with mixed emotions, especially for the seniors — Taylor Willis, Ryane Ortiz and Melody Barooni — since it will be their last home game as Slugs.
“It’s bittersweet,” Willis said. “I’m excited about playing and a bunch of my family and friends will be watching, but it means basketball is almost over for me and that makes me sad. It’s one of the moments we used to talk about in the past and now it’s here. It’s going to be a very emotional night for everyone.”
The Slugs will play Bethesda Christian again in hopes of another exciting game between two competitive teams. In their recent matchup on Jan. 25, the Slugs defeated Bethesda Christian 63-59. It wasn’t an easy win, as the game moved back and forth and came down to the wire in the second half.
Even though Bethesda Christian doesn’t have a winning record, they are still a tough team thanks to their two players over 6’3”. Both with a 15-6 record, the UCSC women’s basketball team is currently tied for first place with Maine Presque Isle out of the Division III Independent teams.
The Santa Cruz Warriors have had a strong season so far — with their 16-11 record they are currently tied for first place in the West Division with Reno. In their last game, the Warriors defeated the Bakersfield Jam 110-105, with the help from Kent Bazemore’s 25 points and Seth Curry’s 22 points. The Warriors will play the Los Angeles D-Fenders for the fifth time this season and have a winning record of 3-1 against them.
Santa Cruz Warrior’s public and community relations manager Matt de Nesnera calls Kaiser the perfect “community gathering space.” He said Slug Night will celebrate the vital role UCSC plays in the Santa Cruz community and the success of Kaiser increasing the Slug’s fanbase. He looks forward to future seasons to see the relationship between UCSC and Kaiser grow — the first UCSC Night since their contract was reached will be a milestone to look back on.
Grab a date or a couple of friends and celebrate the love of your senior basketball players. Slug Night happens Feb. 8 at 3 p.m. for the women’s game and 7:30 p.m. for the Santa Cruz Warriors game. Alumni, faculty, staff, students, parents and friends can all use the discount code “SLUGS” to purchase discounted tickets.