COSTA MESA, Calif. – No. 10 Vanguard fell to No. 1 Cal State San Marcos 82-80 in the NAIA Game of the Week on Thursday evening in The Pit. Senior Preston Wynne (Wellpinit, Wash.) paced the Lions with a game-best 29 points.
Junior Keith Mason (Carson, Calif.) got the ball rolling for Vanguard as he won the jump, scored the first bucket and came up with the Lions' first steal of the night.
The Cougars' early points came in the paint, mostly off of offensive rebounds as San Marcos built a 7-3 lead out of the gate.
Just under the 16 minute mark, however, Wynne pulled and sank from deep in Malcolm Lemmons' face to tie the contest at 7-all.
Senior Noel Larkins (Placentia, Calif.) was next to strike, nailing one from behind the arc as Vanguard claimed its first lead since Mason's opening lay-up at 19:28.
Vanguard's defense stepped up its intensity to come up with three consecutive stops while the offense converted on its end with a bucket from freshman Zach Allmon (San Luis Obispo, Calif.) and five-straight points from junior Chris Gorman (Oceanside, Calif.) to garner a 17-7 advantage with 12:33 to go in the half.
Things continued to favor the aggressive Blue and Gold squad past the period's midway point, as the Lions went on an 18-1 run to amass a 25-8 edge in the game.
Vanguard built its largest edge (29-10) at the 7:12 mark following an Allmon tip-in, which forced another timeout from San Marcos head coach, Jim Saia.
Out of the chat the Cougars managed four-straight to cut the gap to 15, but The Pride went back to Mason, who promptly scored one inside and one from the outside to extend the margin to 33-16 at the 5:35 mark.
Senior Tino Zaragoza (Orange, Calif.), playing against his brother, Zack Zaragoza of San Marcos, perhaps for the final time, kept the spread at 17 (39-22) with a hustle play under the hoop with 2:40 to go in the half.
In the remaining minutes, the momentum favored top-ranked San Marcos, as the Cougars cut the gap to nine before Vanguard took a 10-point lead into the locker room.
The Lions shot 46.7 percent (14-for-30) from the floor compared to the Cougars' 28.6 percent (10-for-35) effort. The Lions also out-rebounded the Cougars 26-19 through 20 minutes.
Mason's 12 points led all players at the break while Gorman dished a game-best four assists and scored eight in the first.
The second saw the Cougars come within four by the time the clock read 17:28 and although Vanguard held it a slight lead for the ensuing five and half minutes, San Marcos obtained its first lead (54-53) of the period following a Malcolm Lemmons' 3-pointer at 12:03.
From there it was back-and-forth for nearly five minutes until San Marcos went on a 9-1 run to claim its largest advantage of the contest, 66-58, after a Bobby Macias' fast break lay-up.
A Gorman drive brought the score to 67-64 and two possessions later, at the 4:40 mark, Wynne drove the lane and finished to put his squad within a basket of the lead.
A minute and half went by before Vanguard drew up a virtually identical spread offense to get Wynne the ball, where he converted to cut the gap to one (73-72) once again.
It came as no surprise when Vanguard went back to Wynne on the subsequent trip and it was even less surprising when the playmaker tied it up 75-all with a bucket from deep.
Jones was next to strike, putting the Blue and Gold out front 77-75 with a pair from the charity stripe with under two remaining.
Trailing 80-77 with 21 seconds on the clock, Wynne went length of the floor, finished a lay-up and was fouled, converting from the free throw line to deadlock the affair at 80-80 with 15.8 to play.
Cal State San Marcos was not finished, however, and got the ball to Jason Johnson who drove to the basket and appeared to illegally push off his defender as he finished on the slash. No call was made and Vanguard got the ball back with four seconds, but could not connect on its off-balance heave as time expired.
Mason and Gorman finished with 14 and 12, respectively, while Jones scored 7 points for The Pride, all from the free throw line.
Gorman handed out a game-high 6 assists in 30 minutes of action.
Vanguard returns to the court on Saturday for a 7:30pm GSAC contest with San Diego Christian. The 2014 seniors will be honored prior to the game's start.