The magical ride continues for Cal Poly Pomona’s men’s basketball team in 2009-10.
And that ride just got sweeter with another monumental win Monday night.
Tournament Most Outstanding Player Austin Swift scored 19 points, including five in the final 97 seconds, and the Broncos captured their second straight NCAA Tournament West Region title in a wild 78-75 victory over Brigham Young University-Hawaii at Western Washington University.
Tip off for the Broncos’ NCAA Elite Eight first-round game is scheduled for 3 p.m., March 24 at the Mass Mutual Arena in Springfield, Mass., — the birthplace of basketball. The Broncos will play the Midwest Region champion that features Quincy and St. Joseph’s, who play for their regional title Tuesday in Owensboro, Ky.
West Region title game marked the second straight year the two teams have met in the final, but this time the action took place on a neutral court. A year ago, the Broncos enjoyed a 16-2 run over the final 6:23 to win in the final seconds on All-American Larry Gordon’s basket at BYUH’s Canon Center.
This setting was a bit different, but one the Broncos have claimed as their own in the last five years. Cal Poly Pomona now has won eight consecutive games NCAA Division II Tournament games here at Haggen Court at Sam Carver Gymnasium. The venerable arena has seen Cal Poly Pomona capture a 2005 regional title, two games in last year’s regional and the three games this weekend.
“We enjoy playing in this venue,” said coach Greg Kamansky, who will take his fourth team to the Elite Eight in the last eight years — a remarkable achievement that no other Division II program can claim. “This team just has tremendous heart. So many big plays by different people.
“This feeling never gets old, and we’re going back to Springfield.”
Cal Poly Pomona, the No. 4 seed in the region, improved to 25-6 with its 18th win in the last 19 games. Center Dwayne Fells and forward Donnelle Booker each had 15 points.
BYU-Hawaii, the No. 6 seed, finished 22-6 with a third straight regional title game appearance. Center Lucas Alves, last year’s national Player of The Year, had game-highs of 26 points and 10 rebounds for the Seasiders, whose 14-game winning streak was snapped.
The Brazilian scored 22 of his 26 points in the final 20 minutes.
The score was tied at 72-72 after a driving layin by BYU-Hawaii guard Tsung-Hsien Chang, who finished with 21 points. But Swift took a pass from Dahir Nasser and hit a reverse layin to give the Broncos a two-point lead. Then after a Seasiders turnover, he nailed a 3-pointer late with the shot clock down to two seconds to put the Broncos up by five, 77-72, with 45 seconds left.
A Chang 3-pointer narrowed the margin to two, and after Mark Rutledge made one of two free throws with 26 seconds left, the Seasiders had a chance to tie, but missed three 3-pointers in the final 11 seconds.
Rutledge had 11 points and Mitchel Anderson added 10 for the Broncos, who shot 53.8 percent (28-of-52) from the field. Virgil Buensuceso had 13 points for BYU-Hawaii and Anthony Reilly added 11.
Cal Poly Pomona controlled much of the contest, making five 3-pointers in six possessions to key a 17-3 run that gave the Broncos a 26-14 lead with 8:24 left in the first half.
The Broncos finished the game with a season-best 10 3-pointers.
Cal Poly Pomona led 36-25 at halftime, and was ahead 62-54, with less than eight minutes left, but BYU-Hawaii went on a 12-1 run and took a 66-63 lead on a layin and free throw by Reilly with 4:52 left.
Neither team led by more than three points after that until Swift’s 3-pointer in the final minute.
Joining Swift on the all-tournament team were Booker, Fells, Alves and Chang.
(Photo: Austin Swift drives to the basket during the Bronco’s CCAA tournament finals game against Cal State San Bernardino on March 6, 2010.)