Loyola Marymount left its start in San Francisco, but the Lions still won their second straight West Coast Athletic Conference tournament Monday night, beating Santa Clara, 75-70, in overtime.
It was the second straight season Loyola has knocked off the Broncos in the final to earn an automatic berth in the National Collegiate Athletic Assn. tournament.
Loyola, which averages 114 points and has several times scored more than 75 points in a half, won this one the hard way, getting its lowest scoring total of the season despite the overtime.
Junior guard Jeff Fryer, scoreless in regulation after halftime, scored the Lions’ first eight points in the overtime to lead the way.
Hank Gathers tied the game, 65-65, with 25 seconds left in regulation, and both teams missed chances to avoid the overtime.
When Fryer and Bo Kimble missed free throws in the final minute of overtime, Loyola got the rebound each time to protect the lead. Enoch Simmons hit two free throws with 11 seconds left to clinch it.
After Fryer and Jeffty Connelly traded baskets to open the overtime, Connelly, who finished with 23 points, made a steal and took off for a breakaway. Loyola’s Per Stumer made a controversial block from behind--Santa Clara wanted a goaltending call--and Fryer made a three-pointer to give the Lions the lead for good.
The Lions improved to 20-10 despite shooting only 33% in a game played more in Santa Clara’s physical style. The Broncos didn’t shoot much better at 43%.
“It wasn’t a pretty dance for us, but we can win in that style, we just don’t like to,” Loyola Coach Paul Westhead said. “I think you saw the results of playing three games in three nights. It’s very demanding. The guys were at the point of exhaustion.”
Gathers, who had 30 points and 16 rebounds, was named the tournament’s most valuable player. Kimble, who scored 16 points, was also named to the all-tournament team, along with Santa Clara forward Jens Gordon, who had 18 points and a career-high 17 rebounds, Connelly, and Bronco freshman guard Melvin Chinn.
Fryer, who finished with 19 points, was conspicuously missing from the postgame honors. “I’d like to nominate Jeff Fryer for a new category, all-overtime team,” Westhead quipped.
Loyola, which made only 24 of 72 shots and only four three-pointers, resorted to its scrambling press to get back in the game after surrendering a 12-point lead and falling behind by as many as six early in the second half.
“Both teams were pretty tired and missed a lot of shots,” Santa Clara Coach Carroll Williams said. “Our kids did a pretty good job of making them play some defense. It’s like going through a mine field, going through that press.”
Loyola forced 26 turnovers. Santa Clara (20-10), which has appeared in all three WCAC tournament finals, hopes to participate in the National Invitation Tournament for the second straight year.
Loyola trailed, 38-37, at halftime and remained cold early in the second half when Santa Clara forged a 44-38 lead paced by two drives by Mitch Burley.
Loyola, then made its move, scoring 12 consecutive points for a 50-44 lead. In the run, Gathers scored eight points and Loyola’s press forced two consecutive turnovers.
Santa Clara tied the score, 63-63, with 2 minutes to play.