They call Michael Harris "Money" and for a very good reason.
Several times this season, the 6-0 junior has come through with important plays in the game's final minutes.
It was with Hayward's season, or the "money," on the line that Harris came up with the big play, making a steal and driving the length of the floor to score on a lay-in with three seconds left in the game.
The win moves Hayward (21-7) into the quarterfinals of the Division II tournament. The Pioneers will travel to either South Dakota State or Grand Valley College in Michigan to play next weekend.
Northridge, the champion of the California Collegiate Athletic Assn., finished its season with a record of 20-10. This was Northridge's third trip to the NCAA tournament and the Matadors have yet to advance past the regionals.
It was on old nemesis which led to their downfall Saturday--turnovers.
Northridge committed 16 against Hayward after having turned the ball over 22 times the previous night in a 70-59 first-round victory over Eastern Montana.
"Our carelessness with the basketball finally proved to be detrimental to our well being," said Northridge Coach Pete Cassidy. "They put a lot of pressure on us with our defense, but our mistakes were more our doing than theirs. We were sloppy."
The most important turnover, of course, was the last one.
Northridge trailed, 49-48, but had the ball in the front court and in the hands of their best player with 15 seconds left.
But guard Mike Almeido lost control while starting a drive into the key, and Harris was there to scoop up the ball and take it all the way for an easy basket.
Harris, who was selected as the regional's Most Valuable Player, finished with 18 points, 15 in the second half. He had seven points and a key steal in the last five minutes of Hayward's 64-61 victory over Norfolk State in the first round of the tournament.
"That's why we call him Money," said Pioneer forward Cye Adams. "Having the ball in his hands in the clutch is like money in the bank."
Hayward trailed by as many as eight points, 36-28, early in the second half, but rallied with eight unanswered points in a span of 2:33 to tie the score. The Pioneers didn't take their first lead until only 2:41 remained in the game, as Harris hit an 18-footer to make it, 47-46. Up to that point, the game had been tied 10 times.
Northridge's last lead came with 37 seconds left when Larry White fed center Tom Ruetten for a layup to make it 48-47.
Adams put the Pioneers up to stay the next time down the floor, though, hitting a jumper from just inside the free throw line.
Adams had 18 points for Hayward, 10 in the second half.
Northridge was led in scoring by Almeido who had 13 points, while forward Dale Brandsberg added 11.