COSTA MESA, Calif. – No. 12 Vanguard knocked off its third-consecutive NAIA Top-25 opponent on Saturday, besting No. 23 Hope International 72-69 in overtime to improve to 19-2 overall and 6-0 in Golden State Athletic Conference contests.
The Pride has won 14-straight games with its last loss coming against No. 1 Cal State San Marcos on November 23rd, 2013. No team has beaten the Lions in The Pit during the 2013-14 season.
Senior Preston Wynne (Wellpinit, Wash.) sank a short baseline jumper to get the Lions started and his dominance continued throughout the first as he recorded a game-best 12 points in the opening period.
Sophomore Myles Smith (San Pedro, Calif.), however, was the Lions' difference-maker as the reserve point guard came off of the bench to score 8 clutch points in 8 minutes of action in the first.
Vanguard led HIU 32-26 at the break despite shooting just 29 percent (9-for-31) in the first period.
The Royals fared slightly better, connecting on 11-of-25 (44%) attempts, but turnovers and a dismal effort at the charity stripe kept The Pride out front.
In the second, mayhem broke in The Pit as HIU head coach Bill Czech vehemently disagreed with a personal foul called against one of his players. Czech was first given a technical foul and was later ejected after the rant continued.
Immediately following Czech's departure at 16:30, Wynne went to the line and landed 4-of-4 attempts to give Vanguard its largest lead of the evening at 43-32.
Hope managed to whittle the 11-point edge down to five in a three-minute span, but senior Noel Larkins (Placentia, Calif.) went on a timely tear, scoring five-straight points to stretch Vanguard's advantage to 11 (50-39), once again, by the 11:31 mark.
Hope persisted in spite of Vanguard's labors to pull away and made another run to come within four of the Blue and Gold with 8:24 left to play. Senior Swing Chuang (Kaohshiung, Taiwan) had seen enough though, and took matters into his own hands with a reverse and-one lay-up to stretch the gap back to seven (55-48) for the Lions.
Hope's resiliency would not be denied, regardless of Vanguard's best effort, as Matt Green put his squad within two (57-55) at 4:19 after his jump shot fell for the Royals.
Vanguard freshman Zach Allmon (San Luis Obispo, Calif.) revealed his fearlessness on the ensuing trip, as he hit his own jumper in the paint to give the Lions a small cushion to work with.
A pair of free throws from Wynne extended the Vanguard lead to six on the next possession, but once again Hope battled to bring the contest within its grasp (61-59).
With just over a minute to go in regulation, Gorman waxed two from the charity stripe obtain a 63-59 edge for the Blue and Gold.
HIU's Austin Sanford pulled his team back within a point with a tough make from downtown at the 36-second mark, but Wynne was intentionally fouled in the back-court and ate up the pressure, converting two more FT shots to put Vanguard up three points (65-62) with 15 ticks remaining.
The Royals brought the ball up the court hurriedly and before the Lions could figure out what was happening, HIU's Garrett Neilan heaved and banked a running 3-pointer to bring the game to even.
Gorman had a look at the buzzer for Vanguard but it would not fall as the two teams retired to their respective benches to confer about the overtime stanza.
Just four points were scored through the first 3:30 of the extra period. With the contest tied at 67-all and 1:23 on the clock, Allmon made another huge play for Vanguard as he stole the ball from HIU's Randal Guillory.
Gorman took over from there, sinking a money ball from behind the arc to give the Lions a 70-67 edge at the 1:09 mark.
Neilan managed a lay-up for the Royals 17 seconds later, but Vanguard put the ball back into Gorman's capable hands and it paid off as the aggressive point guard came off of a screen to nail a step-back baseline jumper in the final seconds.
Hope had one final try but it was not meant to fall as Vanguard upheld its perfect marks at home and in GSAC play.
"Toward the end of the game, coach called a couple of plays for Preston and I to work together on," Gorman said. "On the first play, my defender went under the screen, so I shot the ball. On the second one I got a solid screen from Zach and their big man switched on to me, so I was able to drive on him and hit that step-back jumper. Our crowd has been awesome all year. They give us energy with all of their support and they are a big reason why we are undefeated at home. I think that we have the greatest home court advantage in the GSAC."
Wynne and Gorman paced the Pride with 25 and 16 points, respectively.
Vanguard struggled offensively in the affair, shooting just 20-for-68 (29.4 %) on the night, but the Lions sank nearly 80 percent from the charity stripe and forced 21 HIU turnovers to collect the 72-69 win.
"Our team is just gritty this year," Wynne said. "That is probably the best way that I can sum us up. To be able to pull out a win shooting how we did tonight is nothing short of a miracle. That's our team though, we play to win, and whether it is ugly or pretty, we are going to grind."
The Master's College is next on the schedule for the Lions. Vanguard will travel to Santa Clarita on Tuesday for a 7:30 pm match-up with the Mustangs.