In nine seasons under Coach Bill Reynolds, the Southern California College men's basketball team has become established as a perennial contender for the National Assn. of Intercollegiate Athletics District 3 title.
Reynolds has a 201-81 record at the Costa Mesa school, an average of more than 22 victories a season, and the Vanguards have reached the district final four times.
But until last week, Southern California had always fallen short of winning the district title.
The Vanguards finally put an end to their frustration with a 90-77 victory over top-seeded Christian Heritage in the District 3 final at Whittier College. The victory earned Southern California its first berth in the NAIA national finals that start today at Kemper Arena in Kansas City, Mo.
Southern California (25-8) will play perennial power Washburn of Kansas (21-11) in its opening game of the 32-team tournament tonight. The tournament continues through next Monday.
For Reynolds, the trip to the national tournament is a dream come true. Not that the Vanguards didn't have the ability to reach the tournament in the past.
"We've felt that we've had a pretty good program all along, but every year there always seemed to be another outstanding team standing between us and Kansas City," he said.
In 1982, Southern California reached the district final only to lose, 75-52, to a Biola squad that was undefeated and ranked No. 1 in the NAIA.
It was a similar situation in the 1984 district final, when the Vanguards faced a Westmont team that was ranked in the NAIA top five and lost, 73-56.
Southern California lost to Biola again in the district final last season, 65-60, although Reynolds remembers it was a game his team could have won.
"It was really a tough loss for us," he said. "We lost by five points and we were only losing by one point with 35 seconds left."
Although the Vanguards entered last week's final having won 14 of 15 games, Reynolds was cautious.
"We just felt good to be in a position to play them (Christian Heritage) for the title," Reynolds said. "We were realistic about our chances."
But the coach said he had a good feeling about his team's chances entering the district tournament.
"There was no truly great team in our district, like there has been in the past, so we really felt it was wide open," he said. "That made it good for everybody else. It just depended on what team got hot down the stretch. I think our experience with the kids that played last year was a positive factor, too."
He was not as certain about his team early in the season, when the Vanguards split their first 10 games.
"We were not playing real well going into league," Reynolds said. "But once we started league we played pretty well. We were pretty even after that."
Reynolds said a big factor in the team's development was switching senior John Mounce from forward to point guard three games into the season.
"He's just seemed to get better and better as the year has gone on," he said. "We made only two turnovers (against Christian Heritage), and that's attributable to our point guard who (handles) the ball 95% of the time."
The team has been led in scoring by 6-7 senior center Jeff Bickmore, who averages 19.2 points and 7.8 rebounds. In addition, 6-2 senior forward Terry Scruggs is averaging 17.8 points, junior guard Rick Witmer 14 and Mounce 11.2.
In addition to having good scoring balance, Reynolds said the team has benefited from the experience of players such as Bickmore, Scruggs and Mounce.
"We just played with a lot of poise in both the finals and the semifinals," he said. "Hopefully we can just sustain that for a few more nights."
The Cal Poly Pomona women's basketball team will be in a familiar position when it competes in the NCAA Division II quarterfinals this week.
It will mark the eighth time in nine seasons that the Broncos have advanced to the quarterfinals. During that span, Pomona has won three national titles and finished second three times.
The Broncos (27-3) are ranked No. 2 in Division II behind defending champion Delta State of Mississippi. They will play fourth-ranked North Dakota (27-3) in the quarterfinals at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Pomona's Kellogg Gymnasium.
Pomona advanced to the quarterfinals with a 59-54 victory over Cal State Stanislaus in the West Regional final Saturday at UC Davis. North Dakota advanced with a 90-58 victory over North Dakota State in the North Central Regional final.
The Broncos have been sparked by All-California Collegiate Athletic Assn. first team players Niki Bracken at center and Marcine Edmonds at forward. Bracken is averaging 19.3 points and 9.5 rebounds and Edmonds 13.8 points and 6.8 rebounds.
The winner of Friday's game advances to the Division II final four tournament March 23 and 24 at an undetermined site.
The Cal State Bakersfield men's basketball team is seeded No. 1 in the NCAA Division II West Regional Friday and Saturday at Bakersfield.
The Roadrunners (25-4), who are ranked No. 13 in Division II, won the CCAA regular-season title and the conference postseason tournament.
In the opening round, Bakersfield plays fourth-seeded Humboldt State (19-10) at 8 p.m. Friday. In the first game at 6, second-seeded UC Riverside (21-8) meets third-seeded Central Missouri State (26-5).
The title game is at 8 p.m. Saturday. The winner advances to the Division II Elite Eight tournament March 24-26 at Springfield, Mass.
Riverside defeated Bakersfield for the regional title last year en route to a third-place national finish. But the Highlanders could be at a disadvantage without forward Chris Ceballos, the CCAA player of the year, who is considered doubtful because of a knee injury.
The Cal State Bakersfield men's swimming team easily captured its fifth national title in a row at the NCAA Division II championships in Amherst, N.Y., last week.
The Roadrunners finished with 830 points, Oakland (Mich.) was second with 686 and Cal State Northridge third at 392. Oakland edged three-time defending champion Northridge, 423-419, to win the women's division.
Henry Albrecht, a 6-5 junior center who led Claremont-Mudd-Scripps to the NCAA Division III men's basketball playoffs, has been named to the Division III All-West Region first team by the National Assn. of Basketball Coaches.
Albrecht averaged 19.8 points and 8.9 rebounds. In addition, 6-2 guard Shawn Manning of La Verne and 6-9 center Chris Anderson of Occidental were second-team selections.
Albrecht was also chosen men's player of the year in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference and Claremont senior guard Stacey McIlroy received the award in women's play.
Senior guard Mark Kraatz of Christian Heritage has been chosen NAIA District 3 men's basketball player of the year and junior center Sonja Akkerman of Cal Baptist received the honor in the women's division.
Freshman guard Genevieve Graff of Christ College Irvine was selected to the All-Golden State Athletic Conference team in women's basketball.
Graff, the leading scorer for the Eagles, also has made the all-conference squad in cross-country and was the top finisher among District 3 runners in the NAIA national meet last year.
Azusa Pacific weight thrower Ade Olukoju was named most valuable performer at the recent NAIA indoor track finals at Kansas City.
Olukoju won the shot put and the 35-pound weight throw. The Cougar men finished second in the meet for the third consecutive season.