Behind the effort of senior Austin Swift’s game-high 22 points, the Broncos outgunned Bentley (Mass.) down the stretch and earned a 71-63 victory over the Falcons on Thursday night before a crowd of 2,194 at the MassMutual Center.
“Our guys find the will to win, and you’re looking at two of them who have stepped up so big,” said head coach Greg Kamansky of his two seniors — Swift and Dahir Nasser. “We’ve played so hard and compete so well. It’s infectious because what they do on the court trickles down to others. They make their teammates better players.”
The Broncos (27-6) will face 2nd-ranked Indiana University of Pennsylvania at 10 a.m. (Pacific) on Saturday for the national championship. The game will be nationally telecast by CBS. ASI will host a viewing party with free snacks and pom-poms at the Bronco Student Center.
Nasser pumped in 11, along with junior Tobias Jahn. Freshman reserve Mitchel Anderson added 10 as the Broncos, who won their school-record 27th game, fired 27-of-53 for the game and dominated in the paint all night, outscoring the Falcons 30-14 inside the lane.
All season long the Broncos have earned a reputation for stellar defense and they showed again in a game played before a partisan crowd as Bentley’s campus is located approximately an hour and half east in suburban Boston.
Cal Poly Pomona shut down the Falcons’ vaunted offense and did not allow a field goal over a six-minute span that began with 6:45 left in the contest. After the Falcons’ Brian Tracey hit a 3-pointer to cut CPP’s lead to 57-53, the Broncos beared down.
Cal Poly Pomona outscored Bentley 10-3 over that 6-minute span and pulled away to reach the NCAA title game for the second straight year.
Nasser punched in a 3-pointer from the right side that pushed the Broncos up 60-53 with 4:40 left. After John Brandt’s two free throws, each team was scoreless. A big play during that stretch occurred when sophomore Dwayne Fells swatted away a Joe Fremeau layup attempt.
Leading 60-55, the Broncos looked to extend the lead when Donnelle Booker had a one-and-one with 1:42 left. He missed the front end and the Falcons’ NABC Player of the Year Jason Westrol drove the lane, but missed a layuup.
Bentley then fouled junior Mark Rutledge, who hit both free throws and Cal Poly Pomona led 62-55 with 1:12 remaining.
After an errant 3-point effort from John Brandt, Tracey gathered the rebound and was fouled by Booker. He missed the first, but scored the second, setting up the clincher.
The Broncos inbounded the under Bentley’s basket and sophomore Matthew Rosser was sent running down court. A baseball was safely delivered and the Temecula native rammed home a dunk and was fouled.
He converted the 3-point play and Cal Poly Pomona led 65-56 with 1:01 left.
Cal Poly Pomonawould build the lead as large as 13 to earn the victory.
Bentley (26-7) was led by Tracey’s 17 points. Westrol added 15 on 4-of-16 shooting.
Cal Poly Pomona enjoyed a 34-26 lead at halftime, thanks to a 9-0 run to close the final 3:46.
The Broncos will attempt to win their first NCAA title when they take on IUP (33-2).
(Photo: Austin Swift drives during the Bronco’s CCAA tournament finals game against Cal State San Bernardino on March 6, 2010.)