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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS

Heinle Has Hand In Victory by CSUN

Men's basketball: Despite dislocated finger, he has 18 points, 13 rebounds to help beat Portland State, 81-75.

March 04, 2001|VINCE KOWALICK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

PORTLAND, Ore. — Cal State Northridge didn't need this.

Not the victory, nor the injury to center Brian Heinle.

But the Matadors got both Saturday night, closing the Big Sky Conference regular season with an 81-75 victory over Portland State before 875 at Stott Center.

Northridge (20-9, 13-3 in conference play), which clinched the Big Sky regular-season title on Thursday at Eastern Washington, will host the six-team conference tournament Thursday through Saturday, with the winner advancing to the NCAA tournament.

It marks the second consecutive season with 20 victories for the Matadors, who took control against the Vikings (9-18, 6-10) in the second half to finish two games ahead of Eastern Washington.

It also was quite a scare for Northridge when Heinle, the Big Sky's scoring and rebounding leader, went to the bench in the early minutes of the first half, clutching his right hand because of a dislocated ring finger.

Heinle, with two fingers bandaged, returned after a few minutes and led Northridge with 18 points and 13 rebounds, his 16th double-double of the season.

Heinle writhed in pain on the bench while being treated. He repeatedly cradled his hand during stoppages in play, but the injury didn't appear to affect his performance.

By all accounts--most forcefully Heinle's--it will not prevent him from playing in the tournament.

Still, Heinle's finger was in a splint after the game and he is scheduled to have X-rays Monday.

"I'll play next week," Heinle said. "They're going to have to cut my legs off to keep me from playing. I can handle it."

Heinle said he will try to avoid having X-rays.

"If I get it X-rayed, anything can happen," he said.

Northridge Coach Bobby Braswell was optimistic.

"They said he should be OK," Braswell said. "We hope it's nothing serious, but we don't know if it is.

"[Heinle] said he didn't even want to look at it."

Portland State, which was 6-0 previously this season at Stott Center, gave Northridge a fight in its final game of the season.

The Vikings, despite going scoreless for more than eight minutes in the first half, rallied from a 32-19 deficit to take a 35-34 halftime lead on Charles Madison's jump shot with two seconds to play.

Madison scored 18 points for the Vikings.

The Matadors took the lead for good, 51-50, midway through the second half on Joey Busch's two free throws.

Guard Carl Holmes, a native of Harrisburg, Ore., scored a season-high 15 points--13 in the first half, including three three-point baskets.

Holmes and Heinle, a native of Eugene, had many friends and family members in attendance.

Markus Carr had 17 points and 10 assists, and forward Jeff Parris had 14 points.

"Our motivation was to come out and play like champions," Holmes said. "We can't win the Big Sky and then lose to the last-place team, pretty much. We already had the championship, but not everyone gets 20 wins."

If the Matadors win the Big Sky tournament, their record should help them when it comes to seeding. Northridge won nine of its last 10 conference games, including five in a row.

And, of course, there is the 78-74 victory at UCLA to consider.

"That was definitely a second goal we set for ourselves," Braswell said. "Across the country, 20 wins is a pinnacle season."

Northridge and Eastern Washington will have first-round byes Thursday. The Matadors will play a semifinal on Friday.

*

Final Big Sky Conference standings and tournament pairings, D16.

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