SAN LUIS OBISPO — Some people dream of summers in Europe and seeing the Eiffel Tower up close. Others prefer the thought of enjoying a week on the beaches of Waikiki.
Leslie Milke, Cal State Northridge women's basketball coach, was given a trip Friday afternoon as a present from her players--a not-so-glamorous ride on their shoulders through the hallways of the Cal Poly San Luis Obispo gym. Despite nearly being dropped on her head, Milke appeared to enjoy the excursion.
It's no wonder. After all, the Lady Matadors had just beaten Chapman, 58-57, in the semifinals of the California Collegiate Athletic Assn. tournament.
The win gave Northridge, ranked 14th in the nation in this week's NCAA Division II final poll, a berth in today's 6 p.m. championship game against defending national champion Cal Poly Pomona (25-3).
Pomona, which has been ranked No. 1 all season, defeated Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, 83-61, in the other semifinal game, and is riding an 18-game winning streak. The Broncos have defeated Northridge 20 straight times dating back to 1976.
The victory also all but insured an invitation for Northridge (19-7) to appear in the three-team NCAA West Regional, which will be played Saturday at a site yet to be determined. Pomona is one of five teams to already receive a bid from the NCAA.
All other regional selections will be made Sunday, but Milke is already planning the trip.
"It feels really great to win and get that opportunity to play in the regionals," said Milke, who along with Pomona Coach Darlene May has been nominated for the region's coach of the year award. "But I want to be thinking about tomorrow's game."
There wouldn't have been a tomorrow if it weren't for the play of junior forward Denise Sitton and junior guard Julie Middleton during the final minute.
It was Sitton's free throw that broke a tie at 57 with 38 seconds left, and Middleton battled hard on the boards to almost single-handedly thwart two Panther threats in the waning seconds.
After making the front end of a one-and-one, giving the Lady Matadors a 58-57 lead, Sitton missed her second shot and the Panthers had a chance to win.
Chapman (17-10) was unable to get the ball to All-American center Leone Patterson, who was being covered closely by Sitton. Freshman guard Mary Gainey missed with a 17-foot shot.
Middleton got the rebound and was fouled with nine seconds remaining. She missed her first shot, and the Panthers had another chance to pull it out.
Again, Patterson could not get away from Sitton, and Gainey missed a 22-foot desperation shot with two seconds left. The shot fell a foot short into the hands of Middleton.
Patterson, the conference's career scoring leader, had a game-high 23 points and 12 rebounds, but Sitton kept her away from the ball when it counted in the end.
"I was all over her," Sitton said. "I didn't care if she went out to half court. She was not going to get the ball."
Sitton finished with 11 points, while Middleton added 8 points and 8 rebounds in only 17 minutes.
"Denise and Julie both did super jobs for us," Milke said. "It was Denise's free throw that iced it for us, and Julie came in when we needed someone to hit from outside, and she did it."
With Chapman's season over, except for an outside chance of being invited to the regionals, Coach Brian Berger was not eager to answer questions after the game. He took time, however, to blame his players for the loss.
"Our players just have no self-discipline," he said. "The whole thing was a complete lack of discipline."
The Lady Matadors, who had lost two straight games last week, seemed to do everything right in the second half, rebounding from a 32-27 halftime deficit.
Four starters finished in double figures for Northridge. Besides Sitton, center Tara Flanagan (14 points), and guards Lori Costello (11) and Renee Loch (10) also contributed to the balanced scoring attack.
"We all felt this confidence this week," Flanagan said. "For the last two days, all I've seen in my mind is us winning."
Sitton was sure of another thing.
"I'm not going to be doing a whole lot of sleeping tonight," she said.
Cal Poly Pomona 83, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo 61--In the other semifinal game, Pomona led by only four points, 33-29, at halftime, but blitzed San Luis Obispo, 50-32, in the second to turn a close game into a rout.
The victory improved the Broncos' record against the Mustangs to 24-1.
Senior forward Debbie Flett scored 19 points for Pomona, while All-American forward Vickie Mitchell added 14 points and 12 rebounds.