LA MIRADA, Calif. – Arizona Christian University (14-5, 4-3 GSAC), the third-place team in the Golden State Athletic Conference and ranked 25th in the NAIA National Top 25 poll, outscored Biola University (12-11, 2-5 GSAC), 12-4, in overtime and defeated the Eagles 74-66, in GSAC men's basketball action, Tuesday, January 29, in Chase Gym in La Mirada, Calif. Arizona Christian also defeated Biola for the first time ever in four attempts.
Arizona Christian learned on Tuesday afternoon that it had moved into the NAIA's national poll for the first time ever with its number 25 ranking. The Firestorm had received votes for the top 25 in both of the previous two polls. This season, Arizona Christian has defeated defending NAIA national champion Concordia, a GSAC member, and lost by just eight points, 78-70, to number five-ranked Westmont College (19-3) in GSAC action, Saturday, Jan. 26. A third GSAC school, Hope International (21-3), ranks number 12 in the Jan. 29 poll.
In other GSAC men's basketball action Tuesday evening, Vanguard University (14-8, 3-4 GSAC) won 81-70 at home over The Master's College (13-9, 2-5 GSAC), and number five-ranked Westmont College (19-3, 7-0 GSAC) beat Concordia University (13-8, 2-5 GSAC), 87-77, in Santa Barbara. Number 12-ranked Hope International (21-3, 6-1 GSAC), the second place team in the GSAC, won 62-60 at San Diego Christian College (5-11, 2-5 GSAC).
The game featured 13 ties, and oddly, Arizona Christian committed just six fouls and sent Biola to the free throw line just twice in the entire game. Arizona Christian committed 11 turnovers that led to 15 gift points for Biola, and the Eagles totaled nine assists that led to nine Arizona Christian points. The Firestorm out-rebounded Biola, 45-37, and led 12-7 in offensive rebounds and 14-7 in second-chance points.
In the first half, the score was tied nine times, and Arizona Christian enjoyed three 4-point leads while Biola's biggest lead was three points, 15-12, at the 12:51 mark. The score was tied at 33 at halftime. Junior forward Jordan Block (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif./Claremont H.S./Pasadena City College) scored 13 points to lead the Firestorm, and senior forward David Cline hit 7 of his first 8 shots for 14 points and gathered seven rebounds for Biola in the first half.
Biola led by four points, its biggest lead of the game, 41-37, at 16:57, but Arizona Christian rallied to tie the game at 41 with 14:42 left in regulation time. After Biola gained a 48-47 lead at 8:44, Arizona Christian began a 12-4 run and gained its biggest lead to that point in the game, 59-52, with 5:14 remaining, but Biola put together a 10-3 run of its own to tie the game at 62, getting a three-pointer at 1:32 from sophomore guard Dakota Anderson and a tying lay-up from Cline with 54 seconds left. Arizona Christian missed a pair of shots in the final 30 seconds.
In overtime, Arizona Christian trailed briefly, 64-62, on a jumper by 7-0 sophomore center Mike Kurtz, with 4:41 left, but Arizona Christian guard Mason Jones (Huntington Beach, Calif./Ocean View H.S./Eastern Oregon Univ.) drilled a go-ahead three-pointer at 4:24 and later made four clutch free throws in the final 40 seconds. Arizona Christian made just 2 of its 6 shots but converted 7 of its 10 free throws in the overtime. Biola made just 2 of its 9 field goal tries in the extra period. Arizona Christian's final winning margin, 74-66, was its biggest lead of the game.
Block, Arizona Christian's leading scorer and rebounder (15.3 ppg and 6.5 rpg), finished the game with 20 points on 9 of 13 shots, made 2 three-pointers, gathered 10 rebounds and stole the ball three times from Biola. Despite making just 5 of his 19 shots and 4 of 14 three-pointers, junior guard Charles King (Houston, Tex./Stephen F. Austin H.S./Phoenix College), who averages 15.1 points, totaled 15 points, five rebounds and three assists, and freshman forward Jackson Helms (Murrieta, Calif./Murrieta Valley H.S.) totaled 11 points on 5 of 8 shots, six rebounds, two assists and one blocked shot. Jones also finished with 11 points, nine in the second half, one three-pointer, seven rebounds, six assists and two steals, and senior guard A.J. Koch (Tucson, Ariz./Flowing Wells H.S.) added eight points, 2 three-pointers and six rebounds in his 100th career game and now ranks ninth in Arizona Christian history with 1154 points in four seasons.
Cline led all scorers with 22 points on 11 of 16 field goals and also gathered 10 rebounds and passed four assists. Kurtz added 14 points on 7 of 12 shots and had nine rebounds, three blocked shots and one steal, and senior guard Jeremy Pope scored eight points with one three-pointer, three rebounds, eight assists and three steals. Junior forward Zack Zaragosa contributed eight points, 2 three-pointers, five rebounds, one blocked shot and two steals.
The Firestorm made 28 of 68 shots (.412) and went 10-for-30 from three-point range (.333) and 8-for-15 from the free throw line (.533) and stole the ball from Biola five times. Biola made 30 of its 72 shots (.417), 5 of 20 three-pointers (.250) and 1 of 2 free throws (.500), stole the ball seven times and blocked five Arizona Christian shots.
Coached by Jeff Rutter, Arizona Christian plays a 7:30 p.m. GSAC game (8:30 Arizona time), Saturday, February 2, at The Master's College in Santa Clarita, Calif. The Arizona Christian women's basketball team plays the 5:30 first game of the GSAC doubleheader at number nine-ranked Master's.