At the start of the season, it was not surprising to see the Cal State Bakersfield men's basketball team listed in the NCAA Division II top 10.
After all, the Roadrunners had reached the Division II semifinals two seasons in a row, including a second-place finish in 1990.
But midway through the California Collegiate Athletic Assn. season in February, Coach Pat Douglass says that he doubted his team's chances of returning to the Division II Elite Eight tournament this season.
"I've never taken anything for granted," Douglass said. "Five weeks ago, we were struggling a little, and I honestly didn't know if we'd be there again."
After finishing second in the CCAA's regular season at 10-4, which included two losses to conference champion UC Riverside, the team's fortunes started to turn for the better during the postseason tournament two weeks ago.
The Roadrunners began the four-team competition with a 71-51 victory over Cal State Dominguez Hills, then defeated Riverside, 69-65, to win the title and receive an automatic berth in the Division II playoffs.
Playing host to the Division II West Regional last week, the Roadrunners opened the four-team tournament with a 99-78 victory over Cal State Chico, then beat Riverside, 72-70, in overtime.
That gave the Roadrunners a 25-6 record and their third consecutive berth in the Elite Eight tournament, which starts Thursday at the Springfield Civic Center in Springfield, Mass.
It also gave Bakersfield much-needed momentum heading into its tournament opener against Jacksonville (Ala.) State. Jacksonville State, which is averaging 100.8 points, improved to 28-1 with a 105-87 victory over South Carolina Spartanburg in the South Regional final last week. The winner of this quarterfinal game will play either Virginia Union or Kentucky Wesleyan in the semifinals.
Bakersfield has been led by senior forward Beau Redstone, who is averaging 13.8 points and 10 rebounds. Guards Fred Eckles and Kenny Warren are averaging 12.5 and 10.5 points, respectively.
College Division Notes
With only eight players on its roster because of injuries, the last thing Cal Poly Pomona women's basketball team needed was to have four of them foul out against UC Davis in the first round of the NCAA Division II West Regional at Portland State last When guard Sylvia Castaneda fouled out with 40 seconds remaining, the Broncos were forced to complete the game with only four players on the court. Two of the team's remaining players, forward Leslie Ellis and guard Nicole Sanders, also finished the game with four fouls as UC Davis won, 69-49.
The Biola men's basketball team will take a 24-game winning streak into its opening game against Union (Tenn.) in the NAIA tournament tonight at Kemper Arena in Kansas City. The Eagles, 31-3 and ranked No. 3 in the NAIA, haven't lost since Cal State Dominguez Hills scored a last-second nonconference victory Dec. 14 at Dominguez Hills. Union is 19-14; the winner will play either Emporia (Kan.) State or Brigham Young Hawaii during the second round of the 32-team tournament, which runs through Monday. Biola reached the national tournament with a 90-75 victory over Westmont in the NAIA District 3 final last week.
The Cal Lutheran men's basketball team lost to Otterbein, 82-78, during the third round of the NCAA Division III playoffs last week. Playing in Division III and the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference for the first time, the Kingsmen won their first conference title and earned their first berth in Division III postseason play. The Kingsmen also finished with consecutive winning seasons for the first time in school history. Cal Lutheran was 16-12 after going 14-12. The defeat ended the collegiate career of Cal Lutheran guard Jeff deLaveaga, the leading scorer in Division III with a 29.5-point average. He scored 38 points against Otterbein to finish with a college average of 28.1 points and a total of 2,248 points, second-highest in school history behind that of his older brother, Steve.
Junior guard Develle Walker of Cal State San Bernardino, who led the CCAA in scoring with a 22.9-point average, was voted conference player of the year, and UC Riverside's John Masi, who guided the Highlanders to the regular-season title and their fifth consecutive appearance in the NCAA Division II playoffs, was voted coach of the year. Despite being the CCAA player of the year, Walker was left off the Division II All-District 8 team selected by the National Assn. of Basketball Coaches. Conference players making the team were guard Gene Altamirano, swingman Anthony Jenkins and forward Chris Hantgin of UC Riverside, guard Chancellor McCobb of Cal Poly Pomona, forward Roger Middleton of Chapman and center Shawn Kirkeby of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
Cal State Dominguez Hills topped the all-CCAA women's basketball team. Van Girard, who directed the Toros to second place in the conference behind Cal Poly Pomona, was named coach of the year, and senior center Cheri Bullet shared player-of-the-year honors with Pomona forward Leslie Ellis. . . . Senior forward Caryn Cranston, who led the SCIAC in scoring to spark Pomona-Pitzer to its second consecutive conference title, was named SCIAC player of the year. . . . Kent Schlichtemeier of Christ College Irvine was named NAIA District 3 women's basketball coach of the year. Schlichtemeier guided the Eagles to their first district title and a berth in the NAIA tournament. The Eagles, who lost in the first round to Wayland Baptist, finished 25-5.
The Cal Lutheran baseball team, off to the best start in school history, improved its record to 19-0 by sweeping Puget Sound in a nonconference doubleheader Saturday, 10-0 and 8-3. The Kingsmen, who have a batting average of .354, are in first place in the SCIAC at 9-0.