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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS

Heinle Maneuver Drops Weber State

Men's basketball: Center has 25 points and 13 rebounds to help Northridge hike conference lead to 1 1/2 games, 96-86.

February 02, 2001|VINCE KOWALICK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

NORTHRIDGE — In the biggest game of the season, Cal State Northridge relied on its big man--the biggest of the Big Sky Conference.

Center Brian Heinle scored 25 points and had 13 rebounds in 36 minutes to lead six players in double figures, and Northridge came from behind to defeat Weber State, 96-86, in a battle for first before 1,519 on Thursday night at Northridge.

Heinle, a 6-foot-9 senior, continued to make his case for conference most valuable player honors by notching his 12th double-double and 19th of his career against one of the Big Sky's most formidable frontcourts.

Heinle, the Big Sky's scoring and rebounding leader, had 12 points and nine rebounds during a second half in which the Matadors rallied from a 48-41 deficit to win their fourth consecutive game.

Northridge (15-8, 8-2 in the Big Sky), completing a two-game sweep of Weber State (11-8, 6-3), moved 1 1/2 games ahead of the Wildcats and Eastern Washington in sole possession of first. Northridge was a consensus preseason pick to win the Big Sky.

"It just feels good to be in first all alone," Heinle said. "I put a lot of pressure on myself. I knew I'd have to play well for us to win."

Heinle was selected conference player of the week after recording double-doubles at Montana State and Montana. He is averaging 20.3 points and 8.9 rebounds.

Northridge out-rebounded Weber State, 24-12, in the second half, largely because of Heinle's inside presence.

Forwards Jake Shoff and Ivan Gatto, and center Stephan Bachmann all played with four fouls in the final minutes while trying to contain Heinle.

"We had everyone guarding him," Weber State Coach Joe Cravens said. "He presents problems for everyone. He's the best player in the league."

Northridge Coach Bobby Braswell pointed to Heinle while praising the Matadors' balance.

"Brian made big plays around the basket," Braswell said. "When you have a big guy on the block it can open up other things. But I could [point] to five or six guys [Thursday night]."

Forward Jeff Parris, sidelined Wednesday against Cal State Sacramento because of back pain, scored 15 points and had eight rebounds in 27 minutes. Parris was visibly in pain, standing with ice wrapped tightly across his midsection when not in the game.

Markus Carr had 16 points, Marco McCain added 14 and guard Carl Holmes scored 11. Guard John Burrell had 11 points off the bench.

Parris said the game's importance motivated his return.

"I've played hurt before," Parris said. "It was sore, but a win helps to block it out. We know they're right behind us."

Holmes said Heinle's desire set the tone.

"He's the man," Holmes said.

Heinle led Northridge with 13 points in the first half, which ended with Weber State ahead, 46-40.

The Matadors closed to within 52-51 before Heinle connected for his only three-pointer from the top of the lane. The score was tied three times after that before the Wildcats took a 64-63 lead on John Hamilton's basket with 12:32 to play.

Burrell gave Northridge the lead for good, 68-66, with a basket and free throw with 11 minutes to play.

Moments later, Heinle grabbed his missed shot and passed to McCain, whose three-pointer gave Northridge a 71-66 lead.

Two steals by Holmes in the final five minutes led to breakaway baskets and an 85-76 Northridge lead. Weber State threatened, but Heinle's put-back of a McCain miss with 2:36 to play gave Northridge an 87-80 lead. Moments later, Heinle made a free throw and Northridge led, 88-80.

Heinle grabbed his final rebound with three seconds to play and held the ball until the buzzer.

"We knew it would be tightly contested, especially toward the end," Heinle said. "They tried to be physical with me, but I'm used to that."

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