It was a rough and tumble game Tuesday night at Whittier College.
Biola University got rough and Southern California College tumbled.
Playing with a physical abandon, the Eagles came away with a 65-60 victory in front of a standing-room-only crowd of 2,200 in the District 3 final of the National Assn. of Intercollegiate Athletics basketball tournament.
The victory sends Biola (29-7) to the NAIA national tournament in Kansas City, Mo.
The Eagles are no strangers to the national tournament; Biola has won the district title six times in the past 10 years. But, this year was supposed to be different.
Southern California (28-4) came into the playoffs as the No. 1 seeded team. The Vanguards even had two victories over Biola this season.
Unlike the previous meetings, Biola was content to slow the pace and work the ball inside. With a front line of Ed Johansen (6-feet-9), Paul Horn (6-7) and Kevin Hood (6-6), it was a wise strategy and helped Biola take a 29-27 halftime lead.
“We wanted to make them play a half-court game,” Biola Coach Dave Holmquist said. “It was a physical game and, with our size, that is also to our advantage.”
The Eagles outrebounded the Vanguards, 33-22. Biola also had 14 offensive rebounds, which helped derail Southern California’s running game.
“They were crashing the boards so hard that we could never get into our transition game,” SCC Coach Bill Reynolds said.
The Vanguards held their own with the pushing and shoving inside and stayed close throughout the second half.
A steal and layup by Hood gave the Eagles a 37-36 lead with 13:54 left. Biola never trailed again, but also never led by more than four points until the final seconds.
Hood, a transfer from the University of Montana, scored all 13 of his points in the second half. He also had six rebounds, three of which came in the final minute.
Led by Jeff Bickmore, Southern California kept pace. Bickmore scored 10 of his 18 points in the final minute.
The Vanguards tied the score, 54-54, on a steal and layup by Todd Dixon with 5 minutes left. After trading baskets, the Eagles got two free throws from Johansen and a layup by Hood to take a 60-56 lead.
Terry Scruggs (18 points) made a jumper to pull Southern California within, 60-58. What followed was pure mayhem.
The Eagles’ Brandle Studevan drove baseline, but was stripped of the ball by Jim Mansfield. In a pileup under the Biola basket, Bickmore came up with the ball and passed to Scruggs.
Scruggs tried to dribble between two defenders but lost the ball at midcourt. Hood picked it up, but immediately had it stolen by Scruggs, who then lost control. Biola’s Eric Nielson finally gained possession and was fouled by Scruggs.
Nielson’s two free throws gave Biola a 62-58 lead with 57 seconds left. The Eagles then made three of four free throws down the stretch.
Southern California missed five consecutive jump shots.
The Vanguards shot only 42% and made only two of 14 three-point field goals. Biola took high-percentage shots and made shot 50%.
“We’re a perimeter team and they’re an inside team,” Reynolds. “They were better at what they do tonight.”