Cal State Dominguez Hills won its 20th game of the season here Saturday night, but it came a day too late to really matter.
The Toros built a 19-point lead in the first half on the strength of eight three-point baskets to win the third-place game of the Division II Western Regional tournament, 98-77, over Sonoma State.
The game was merely a season-ending formality. Both teams were eliminated from advancing further in postseason play Friday night. Dominguez Hills (20-10) lost to Cal State Bakersfield, 64-61, while Sonoma (17-14) was beaten by UC Riverside, 79-63. Riverside won Saturday’s championship game, 63-60.
For Dominguez Hills, senior center Anthony Blackmon scored 27 points, and senior guard Derrick Clark had 15 points, nine assists and six rebounds. Sophomore guard Robert Barksdale added 18 points and 11 assists.
This tournament will be remembered, perhaps, more for the tension off the floor than for the play inside Bakersfield’s month-old, 3,700-seat gym.
First, there were the front-page headlines, both here and out of town, that Bakersfield officials had “bought” a spot in this tournament for their team--which finished two games behind Dominguez Hills in the regular California Collegiate Athletic Assn. standings--by offering a $24,000 guarantee, the largest in Division II history.
University officials vehemently denied the charge, but players from UC Riverside, the top-seeded team, showed up here Thursday for practice with T-shirts that said “FOR SALE: NCAA Division II Western Regional.”
So incensed was Riverside Coach John Masi that he would not allow his players to talk to the Bakersfield press.
There were a few hard feelings on the Toro sidelines, as well, when it was learned that Blackmon, the CCAA player of the year, was not voted to the Division II All-American team, despite being named to the all-Western Regional team. Making the team instead was guard Maurice Pullum of Riverside, who was also named the tournament’s most valuable player.
By the time the championship game between Riverside and Bakersfield rolled around at 8 p.m. Saturday, the extra tension was evident.
It was a game Dominguez Hills Coach Dave Yanai thought his team should have been in. Bakersfield defeated Dominguez Hills in two of their three meetings, but in 120 minutes of play against each other, Bakersfield held the lead for only 4:20. In Friday night’s game, Dominguez Hills led by as many as nine points, but much as in their second meeting, a last-second 52-50 loss in Carson, the Toros couldn’t hold on.
Still, the season ended on a high note Saturday. This was Yanai’s fifth 20-win season, and the victory over Sonoma State snapped a four-game regional playoff losing streak. In addition, Dominguez Hills ranked third in the nation in defense, holding opponents to about 60 points a contest.
“It’s nice to come away with a taste of victory,” Yanai said. “This season has been a real positive one. These players are tremendous people. It has been an absolute pleasure to coach them.”