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Cal State Northridge wins title game, gets NCAA berth / CS

March 15, 2009|Robyn Norwood

A season full of tribulation for Cal State Northridge will be wrapped in triumph.

The Matadors lost two starters to off-court troubles during the season, but they are headed for the NCAA tournament after a 71-66 overtime victory over Pacific in the Big West Conference tournament title game Saturday night at the Anaheim Convention Center.

The NCAA appearance will be Northridge's first since the 2001 team lost to Kansas in the first round and only the second Division I tournament appearance in school history.

Top-seeded Northridge (17-13) jumped to a 21-3 lead as third-seeded Pacific (19-12) missed nine of its first 10 shots.

It wouldn't be that easy. The Tigers cut the lead to five, 30-25, shortly before halftime, and tied the score, 42-42, midway through the second half. Northridge stretched the lead back to seven, but Pacific's Bryan LeDuc cut it to two, 61-59, with 58.5 seconds remaining. After Northridge turned the ball over on a shot-clock violation, Pacific's Michael Kirby drove the lane and went to the line when Northridge's Rodrigue Mels was whistled for a foul. Kirby sank both free throws to tie the score with 5.4 seconds left.

Northridge's Mark Hill drove across halfcourt and let loose a desperation heave that hit the back of the rim but bounded away.

Mels, who had 23 points, made the key basket of overtime, a three-pointer for a five-point lead with 1:29 left.

The victory set off a delirious celebration for Northridge, which lost leading scorer Deon Tresvant after an arrest this season and lost starting point guard Josh Jenkins after he suffered injuries in a car accident that ended his season.


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