SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Number three seeded Arizona Christian University (20-8), ranked 24th in the NAIA National Top 25 Coaches' poll, defeated number two seeded Hope International University (25-7), the number 17 ranked team in the NAIA, by a score of 93-78, in a Golden State Athletics Conference Men's Basketball Tournament semifinal game, Saturday, March 2, in Murchison Gymnasium on the Westmont College campus in Santa Barbara, Calif. Number four seeded Concordia University (21-10) barely nipped number one seeded Westmont College (25-7), 80-77, in Saturday's other semifinal.
Arizona Christian advances to the GSAC Tournament Championship game for the first time. Arizona Christian meets Concordia University, the number four seeded team, Tuesday, March 5, at 8 p.m. Pacific time (9 p.m. Arizona time) at CU Arena on the Concordia University campus in Irvine, Calif. The game will be televised live on Fox College Sports and also FOX Prime Ticket, and will be produced by 35 Sports.
The adult and faculty and staff from the participating colleges are admitted for $10.00, and seniors age 62 and over are admitted for $8.00. A student ticket costs $5.00.
Concordia's semifinal win over Westmont sets up a third game this season against Arizona Christian, directed by first-year head coach Jeff Rutter. Arizona Christian defeated Concordia, the defending NAIA national champion, 84-82, in Phoenix, Jan. 8, and lost 91-88 in overtime at Concordia, Feb. 23.
With 20 wins this season, the 2012-13 squad becomes the third Arizona Christian basketball team ever to win 20 or more games in a season. The 1996-97 team went 21-8, and the 1985-86 team was 21-9 under the direction of former NBA player and coach Paul Westphal.
The GSAC leader in free throw percentage (.751; 492-655), three-point field goal percentage (.387; 226-584), rebounding average (1138; 40.6 per game), offensive rebounds (348, 12.4 per game), defensive rebounds (790; 28.2 per game) and offensive average (80.36 points per game), Arizona Christian exceeded Hope International's conference-leading defensive average of 59.8 points per game by 34 points and also made 27 of 31 free throws against the Royals Saturday night.
Five Firestorm players scored 13 or more points against Hope International, led by junior All-GSAC forward Jordan Block (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif./Claremont H.S./Pasadena City College) with 26 points, 21 in the second half, on 8 of 12 field goals and 9 of 12 free throws, one three-pointer, six rebounds and two steals, and senior guard A.J. Koch (Tucson, Ariz./Flowing Wells H.S.) with 18 points, 16 in the first half, and 4 three-pointers in six attempts. Freshman forward Jackson Helms (Murrieta, Calif./Murrieta Valley H.S.) totaled 15 points and eight rebounds, and junior All-GSAC guard Charles King (Houston, Tex./Stephen F. Austin H.S./Phoenix College) finished with 13 points, seven in the first half, one three-pointer and six rebounds. Block averages 15.0 points and 6.5 rebounds, and Koch averages 11.7 points and 3.2 rebounds with 46 three-pointers this season. King averages 14.7 points and 3.8 rebounds with a team-high 52 three-pointers.
Junior guard Talib Uqdah (Detroit, Mich./Westview H.S. (Avondale, Ariz.)/Chandler-Gilbert CC), who averages 18.4 points with 33 three-pointers in just nine games, also scored 13 points, nine in the first half, with one three-pointer and 4-for-4 free throws, five rebounds and four assists. Junior guard Mason Jones (Huntington Beach, Calif./Ocean View H.S./Eastern Oregon Univ.), who averages 9.6 points and 3.1 rebounds with 39 three-pointers, added four points, one three-pointer, five rebounds and three assists.
All-GSAC guard Jeremy Kilgore led Hope International with 17 points, eight in the first half ,one three-pointer and two rebounds, and GSAC Player of the Year Kris Rosales totaled 15 points, eight in the first half, four rebounds and five assists. Senior forward Orlando Collins finished with 15 points, seven in the first half, eight rebounds, three assists, one blocked shot and one steal, and sophomore forward Austin Sanford contributed 10 points, two rebounds, one block, and one steal before fouling out with six minutes left in the game. Reserve Travis Damuth scored 10 points, all in the first half, with 2 three-pointers and two assists, and reserve guard Brandon Rowe made a pair of three-pointers for six points.
The Firestorm made 29 of 58 field goals (.500) for the game, eight of 21 three-point tries (.381) and 27 of 31 free throws (.871), out-rebounded the Royals, 43-28, blocked three shots and committed just six turnovers. Hope International, which also committed just six turnovers, made 27 of 66 shots (.409), 5 of 15 three-pointers (.333) and 19 of 23 free throws (.826), blocked two Arizona Christian shots and stole the ball from Arizona Christian four times.
Arizona Christian scored the first eight points of the game and never trailed in the game. The Firestorm led by as many as 10 points in the first half, 35-25, with 4:46 left. Hope International whittled away at the lead and closed to within two points, 41-39, with 33 seconds left before intermission. Arizona Christian led 43-39 at the break.
Hope International closed the gap to two points twice in the first minute of the second half, but Arizona Christian rebuilt its lead to 10 points, 56-46, with 15:53 left in the game and to 16 points, 71-55, with 10:48 remaining. The Royals again sliced the Arizona Christian lead and trailed just 75-68 with 6:30 left, but Arizona Christian put together a run of 16-2 over the next 4 minutes, 27 seconds and took its biggest lead of the game, 91-70, with 2:03 left.