Niki Bracken said she knew that the game was over as soon as she heard her coach say, “It’s ours.”
Darlene May made that proclamation as she huddled with her Cal Poly Pomona women’s basketball team before the start of the overtime period of Saturday night’s game against Cal State Northridge for the championship of the NCAA Division II West regional.
Bracken, Pomona’s 6-foot-2 center, and the rest of the Lady Broncos apparently took May’s words to heart as Pomona defeated Northridge, 83-82, before 606 spectators at Cal Poly Pomona’s Kellogg Gym.
Pomona (26-5), which has won three national titles, will meet St. Joseph’s of Indiana, an 80-59 winner Saturday over Oakland (Mich.), in the Division II quarterfinals March 17 or 18 at a site to be determined.
“I always thought we would win--even when we were down,” May said. “But I didn’t know it would be that close.”
It was the second time in four years that Northridge has lost to Pomona in the regional final. The Lady Broncos beat Northridge, 66-46, in 1986 en route to their third NCAA title.
Northridge, which lost three of four games to Pomona this season, finished 22-9, establishing a school record for victories in a season.
“This has been the best group I’ve had in every way,” said Coach Leslie Milke, who completed her sixth season with the Lady Matadors. “Not just the won-loss record, because that’s a bonus. They’re the best group I’ve been associated with.”
Northridge trailed, 79-77, with 18 seconds left in overtime when sophomore guard Bridgette Ealy missed a two-foot jump shot.
“It just slipped out of my hands,” Ealy said. “No one hit it and no one fouled me. It just slipped.”
Susan Luckinbill got the rebound and was fouled by Northridge forward Julie Arlotto. Luckinbill then made two free throws to give her seven points in the overtime period and put Pomona ahead, 81-77.
Dawn Broline made a seven-foot shot with nine seconds left to bring Northridge within 81-79, but five seconds later, Chris Cavalin fouled Pomona’s Stephanie Coons.
Coons made a pair of free throws and that proved to be the difference when Northridge’s Vicki Mallett made a three-point shot at the buzzer.
Bracken followed her 32-point performance Friday against Hayward with 29 points against Northridge and was named the MVP of the regional. All-American guard Cathy Gooden had 17 points.
Arlotto led Northridge with 24 points and eight rebounds and Cavalin had 18 points and 12 rebounds.
Regulation ended with the score, 69-69.
With Bracken on the bench with four fouls, Northridge used a half-court trapping defense to turn a 49-46 deficit into a 54-53 lead with nine minutes left.
The teams traded baskets down the stretch with Arlotto giving Northridge a 69-68 lead with 1:50 left.
Northridge had possession after calling a timeout with 40 seconds left and 12 seconds on the shot clock, but the Lady Matadors could not get a good shot so Paula Lucas threw up a 26-foot jump shot from the top of the key, then fouled Coons going for the rebound.
Coons hit the front end of a one and one with 26 seconds left to tie the score, 69-69, and when Mallett missed a 14-foot shot off a drive, the teams went into overtime.
Cal Poly Pomona led, 30-26, at halftime behind the play of Bracken and Gooden, who scored six and four points, respectively, during a 12-0 run that put the Lady Broncos ahead at intermission.