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College Division / Mitch Polin : Since It Came as Surprise, Cal Poly Satisfied With Runner-Up Finish

Sometimes, a second-place finish in the NCAA Division II women’s basketball tournament could be called a disappointment for Cal Poly Pomona. After all, the school has been the most successful in Division II since the classification was was formed in 1982. It has won three national titles.

But there was scarcely a tone of disappointment in the voice of Pomona Coach Darlene May following her team’s 88-58 loss to Delta State in the Division II national championship game Saturday in Cleveland, Miss.

“I don’t have any mixed feelings about it,” May said. “I think we were very fortunate to be there. When you consider how we started (the season) and where we were when conference started, I’m not disappointed at all.

“We never expected to be there in the first place. There are 500 other teams that would like to be No. 2 in the nation. They don’t care if they lost by two points or 30.”

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The Broncos have finished either first or second in six of last eight seasons. But this season, they had to contend with a season-ending knee injury to all-conference forward Marcine Edmonds before the team played a game. Six games into the season, Pomona also lost another top player when reserve center Katie Donica broke a hand.

The Broncos wound up winning an unprecedented eighth straight California Collegiate Athletic Assn. championship and fourth conference tournament title.

In the Division II playoffs, Pomona defeated Cal State Hayward, 82-69, and Cal State Northridge, 83-82, in overtime, to win the West Regional and got past St. Joseph’s of Indiana in the quarterfinals, 72-63, to reach the Division II Final Four. In the semifinals, the Broncos edged Bentley of Massachusetts, 84-83, in double overtime.

May said if she was disappointed in anything during the championship game, it might have been the officiating.

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“I’m disappointed not that we got beat but because the officials didn’t protect our center (Niki Bracken),” May said. “We had one center and they had three (front-line players 6-0 or taller) and she was getting pushed all night.”

But that does not take anything away from the team’s accomplishment.

“It’s great,” she said. “I wasn’t even sure we could get past the regionals and everybody in our conference is always gunning for us. Whenever we play someone, it’s always their biggest game.”

With its three front-line starters returning, Delta State will be the pre-season favorite to repeat as Division II champion next season.

Pomona won’t be hurting, though. Bracken, Edmonds and Donica all return.

The Broncos are also in the midst of a solid recruiting year, having already received a verbal commitment from 6-2 All-Southern Section center Danielle Carter of Fontana--one of the highest scoring prep players in the state.

The UC Riverside men’s basketball team concluded one of its best seasons ever with a third-place finish in the NCAA Division II Elite Eight Tournament on Saturday in Springfield, Mass.

But Coach John Masi admits that the Highlanders had mixed feelings after their 90-81 win over Jacksonville State of Alabama in the third-place game.

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“It’s tied for the best season in the school’s history and I’m not saying we’re not proud,” he said. “It’s just that right now it’s hard to look at it that way.”

Masi said the team’s feelings come from being ranked No. 1 earlier in the season and entering the final eight as the highest ranked team.

There were also the expectations that arose following UC Riverside’s 110-92 upset victory over Division I power Iowa in the Chaminade Christmas tournament in December.

“We had a lot of pressure after the win over Iowa and the expectations that followed,” Masi said. “Based on those expectations they felt they should’ve been in the final and they’re very disappointed.”

In finishing 30-4--the most victories in California Collegiate Athletic Assn. history--Masi couldn’t help but think of the four that got away. Riverside lost three games in overtime and the other by one point.

It was the last defeat, an 84-83 overtime setback to Southeast Missouri State in the Division II semifinals, that was most difficult for the Highlanders to accept.

“Anytime you’re that close (to reaching the finals) you always feel that way,” Masi said. “Every game that we lost was in that fashion.”

Still, it was Riverside’s best finish since the Highlanders finished third in Division II in 1970. Masi was the 1970 team captain.

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The Highlanders also finished the season with seven conference records including the most three-pointers in a game (21 against Iowa) and senior guard Maurice Pullum set single-season and career conference marks for three-point baskets.

College Division Notes

Riverside’s Maurice Pullum, who led the Highlanders in scoring and three-point baskets this season, has been named to the National Assn. of Basketball Coaches NCAA Division II All-American team. Pullum, who averaged 18.5 points, became the first Riverside player to receive All-American honors since Sam Cash in 1972. . . . Cal State San Bernardino center Mark Warren, listed among the national leaders in four statistical categories, has been selected to the NCAA Division III All-American team. The 6-8 senior was third in Division III in rebounds with a 14.5 average, fourth in scoring at 26.3, 12th in field-goal percentage at 63.4% and 15th in free-throw percentage at 86.7% Warren’s teammate, guard Gerald Duncan, was named to the Division III All-West Region second team. . . . David Suenram, 54, has been chosen as athletic director at Cal State San Bernardino. Suenram was athletic director at Pittsburg State of Kansas last year and was the school’s cross country coach. He will start next week. . . . Keith Atchley, who coached the Southern California College women’s basketball team to a 15-43 record the last two seasons, has resigned. The Vanguards struggled to a 5-25 mark this season and tied with Christ College of Irvine for last place in the Golden State Athletic Conference. . . . Freshman pitcher Tanna Cash of Cal State San Bernardino threw a perfect game in her team’s 3-0 victory over Cal Baptist last week.


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