Regulation came to a quite unfrantic end in Cal State Fullerton’s game against Utah State at the Big West Conference tournament Thursday. With the score tied, the teams gathered on their benches.
Fullerton Coach John Sneed turned his clipboard toward his team. On it he had written, “4-0.”
Four overtimes, four victories in 1989. Fullerton’s only loss in extra periods all season came way back on Dec. 27, when the Titans fell to New Orleans by one point in double overtime.
Minutes after the sideline talk, Cedric Ceballos’ baseline drive with 11 seconds left ended in a dunk and an 87-86 overtime win at the Long Beach Arena.
Utah State, which chose not to use its final timeout, failed to get off a shot after a near-steal by the Titans’ Derek Jones spooked Kendall Youngblood into traveling with one second left.
The victory sends Fullerton (16-12), which has won 11 of it last 15 games, into a semifinal game tonight. Utah State (12-16), defending tournament champion, is through for the season.
This latest spectacular finish in a Fullerton season that has been rife with them was much to the credit of Ceballos, who finished with 27 points in 28 minutes.
He played only 10 minutes in the first half, sitting out half of it with two fouls and the look of frustration he often adopts after a few shots miss their mark.
“Cedric had a couple of critical fouls,” Sneed said. “He was shooting the ball too quickly. I had to get Cedric settled down before the game or Cedric got away from us. Sometimes it takes that with Cedric.”
Fullerton fell behind by as many as 10 points in the first half as the Aggies’ Reid Newey hit three three-pointers. He would finish with five three-pointers and 21 points. The Aggies’ Dan Conway also had 21 points.
Ceballos came back to start the second half. He is the sort of player who plays with such abandon that, with Fullerton trailing by eight early in the second half, he chose to finish a break with a spectacular 360-degree dunk.
That sort of show has been known to raise a coaches’ ire, but Sneed has learned to take Ceballos’ moves in stride.
“I haven’t seen him miss one of those all year,” Sneed said.
But with 14 minutes left in the game, Ceballos picked up his fourth foul, and it was back to the bench.
He didn’t return until 7 minutes 11 seconds remained.
“I felt like I had to do something for the team,” Ceballos said. “I wasn’t doing anything. Not scoring, not rebounding. I was only fouling. That wasn’t enough. If we would have lost, it would have been my fault if I hadn’t started playing.”
Ceballos, left alone on the outside by the Aggie defense, hit consecutive three pointers with about five minutes left, giving the Titans a 69-64 lead. He would score 10 points--including the game-winning dunk--while playing with four fouls.
Fullerton had the ball with 28 seconds left after Utah State’s Gilbert Pete scored to tie the score, 77-77, but the Titans managed only a forced shot that Derek Jones missed with eight seconds left.
Mark Hill scored 16 points, and Jones added 15 points for Fullerton.