COSTA MESA, Calif. – Vanguard defeated Concordia for the first time since the 2007-2008 season on Tuesday in Golden State Athletic Conference men's basketball action. The 2013 Lions stepped up big in front of their home crowd to earn Vanguard head coach Rhett Soliday his first career win over his alma mater and mentor by the final score of 82-78.
"I thought both teams played really well tonight," Soliday said. "It came down to who made a few more plays down the stretch. Obviously I have a lot of respect for their program and I know how hard it is to beat them so I don't take it for granted like we just completely outplayed them. We made enough plays tonight to get it done though, and I am really happy with this win and really proud of our guys."
Junior Preston Wynne (Wellpinit, Wash.) led the Vanguard attack with 20 points, four rebounds, four assists and three steals.
The Eagles held an advantage for most of the first period behind a 19-point effort from Concordia junior Tim Harris (San Jose, Calif.).
Concordia led by as many as 14 at the 9:11 mark but Vanguard upped its intensity and cut the margin to nine (47-38) at the break.
The Pride had 10 players put points on the board in the opening 20 minutes. Sophomore Chris Gorman (Oceanside, Calif.) led the way with seven, while Wynne and senior Ennis Whatley Jr. (Columbia, Md.) posted six points apiece.
The second half was a different story. Vanguard looked renewed as it took to the floor and immediately severed Concordia's lead. A 3-point bucket from Wynne cut the gap to one at 16:30 and 37 seconds later a fast-break lay-up by sophomore Selle Hann (Dakar, Senegal) gave Vanguard its first lead since 2-0.
Gorman broke a 57-all tie with a dirty shot from behind the arc and a free throw from Wynne put the Blue and Gold up four with 10:12 to play.
Concordia grabbed a slight lead over the next four minutes, but the Lions kept it close until a pair of Wynne shots from the charity stripe tipped the scale in Vanguard's favor (70-68). He didn't stop there, stealing the ball from Harris on the next possession and beating the Eagles down the floor to convert a three-point-play with 5:06 on the clock.
Sophomore DeLaun Frazier (Oxnard, Calif.) responded for Concordia with a hit from downtown to bring the game within two points but Whatley grabbed an offensive board for the Blue and Gold on the next trip down and managed a put-back to stretch the Lions' advantage back to four.
Wynne was next to strike with his signature jumper and had a chance to put his team up by eight with 2:28 remaining after an Eagles' miscue but his attempt just missed and Concordia got the ball back.
Gorman blocked Harris' shot attempt next and although the Eagles came up with the rebound, the Lions did not let up and made another clutch defensive stop.
Junior Noel Larkins (Placentia, Calif.) dove on top of a loose ball to garner the big defensive rebound for Vanguard. His hustle paid off by way of two made free throws but Concordia answered with a quick basket to keep the spread at six with 2:01 on the clock.
Fourth-year Dakota Downs (Hemet, Calif.) brought the game within three (79-76) for Concordia with under a minute to go, nailing one of his two shots from the stripe.
A five-second call on a Vanguard inbounds' pass had the Vanguard faithful worried but disaster was avoided as Concordia missed a good look from behind the arc.
Gorman was fouled before the ball was inbounded on the next possession and missed the front end of his two free throws, but knocked down the one that counted to put his squad up four.
Concordia fouled the rest of the way and Vanguard did enough at the line to pull off the GSAC victory.
Gorman finished with 16 points, five rebounds, four assists and two steals. Whatley scored 14, posted a team-leading six rebounds, and also came up with four assists and two steals.
"The win against Concordia is something that I have personally been looking forward to my entire career," senior Taylor Kelly (Bakersfield, Calif.) said. "It came at a perfect time. We hope to take this big win and ride the momentum for the rest of the year. I'm really proud of the way that we competed together and never gave up."
Kelly and Hann registered seven points each for the Lions.
Concordia's Harris led all scorers with 32 in the defeat.
With the win Vanguard improves to 16-10 overall and 5-6 in conference play. The Eagles' GSAC-leading three-game winning streak was broken with the loss. Concordia drops to 16-9 on the year and 5-6 in league play.