Concordia, playing its best against the best in the Golden State Athletic Conference, routed top-seeded Azusa Pacific, 92-75, in the semifinals of the conference tournament Saturday in front of 1,352 at Whittier College.
Concordia advanced to the conference final against Fresno Pacific, an 83-69 winner over Westmont, Tuesday at Whittier. The champion receives an automatic berth in the NAIA national championship tournament March 14-20 in Tulsa, Okla.
During the conference season, Azusa Pacific beat Concordia by 26 and 17 points, but Saturday, the Eagles sprung a trap.
Azusa Pacific (23-10) didn't handle it well, shooting 40% from the field, its second poorest performance of the season. Raymond Tutt, conference player of the year, was taken out of his game. He made only nine of 19 shots and scored 21 points, five below his conference-leading average. Point guard Deric Daniels had 26 points and five assists, but he also committed five turnovers.
Concordia Coach Greg Marshall said he introduced the half-court trap to his team about a week ago especially as a weapon to use against the Cougars.
"It was a real chess match," Marshall said. "They would make an adjustment, then we would make an adjustment. Ultimately, we played so well early that they ran out of time."
Azusa Pacific took the early lead before the Eagles (27-6) turned on the trap. It seemed to spur the offense, and Concordia's lead was soon hovering around 10 points. Craig Martin and Pharoah Jones, who each scored 15 points in the first half, were leading the way.
Martin, a senior who hadn't beaten Azusa Pacific in his two seasons at Concordia, finished with a season-high 27 points. Jones, a junior, finished with 26.
"It was kind of a get-back thing for my junior and senior years," Martin said. "This time I decided to do whatever it takes."
Martin's three free throws, which came after he was fouled taking a three-point shot with 11 minutes 22 seconds left, gave the Eagles an 18-point lead. Azusa tried to make a run, but never got closer than 13.
In Big West women's basketball:
UC Irvine 83, Cal State Fullerton 61--Allah-mi Basheer scored 27 points and had 11 rebounds as UC Irvine (16-10, 12-6) clinched third in the Big West. The Anteaters' 16 victories are the most in one season since they were 21-7 in 1984-85.
Fullerton's Koko Lahanas, the nation's leading scorer, was limited to 16 points and seven rebounds.
Nevada Las Vegas 73, Long Beach State 71--Melissa Gower scored 36 points and had 16 rebounds for Long Beach State (13-13, 10-8). Kim Barfield had 16 points for the 49ers.
Angie White led Nevada Las Vegas (11-14, 10-8) with 22 points.