Fullerton~The turnaround is complete. Biola Men’s Basketball once again reigns supreme in the Golden State Athletic Conference as Dr. Dave Holmquist’s boys clinched the conference tournament title with a 60-52 victory over No. 7 Hope International last Tuesday night.
“We just have one great thing after another happening for us,” said Holmquist. “To win on their court against a very good, well-coached team feels great.”
Eight points was the largest lead either team had the entire night in what will go down as another absolute GSAC Instant Classic. This Instant Classic just so happened to be seen live by a crowd of about 2,000 and delivered to living rooms all across Southern California courtesy FOX Sports Prime Ticket.
Shining bright in the biggest moment, a huge defensive performance from start-to-finish and team effort on the offensive end carried the Eagles, the regular season champions, to the tournament title as well. It is the team’s first tournament title since 2011-12 and clinches the team’s first berth at the NAIA National Tournament since that same year.
Throughout this journey Dr. Holmquist continues to remark on is just how close this team is, how much they care for one another and how much fun they have together. All three of those aspects were on full display for the audience throughout this evening’s battle.
“I’ve coached 39 teams and this is one of the most enjoyable teams that I’ve coached,” said Holmquist. “This was a special year. If I could have a year like this every year I coach, I’d coach until I was 90.”
The team cohesion was evident immediately as Holmquist’s squad charged out to an 8-1 lead through the first four minutes and change in this ballgame. After missing its first two shots of the game Biola hit from deep on back-to-back attempts to fuel the early rally.
The man who opened the scoring for BU would be the man who would go on to spearhead the efforts on offense with his team-high 24 points, Dakari Archer. Even with the early three-point make the Eagles’ star point guard was not as effective from distance as he normally is so he had to get creative in order to get his points throughout the night. We’d say his creativity did the trick.
After the Eagles extended to the seven-point lead it took the Royals just over a minute and a half to grab the lead back thanks to back-to-back-to-back three-point makes from Ramon Mejia.
Mejia was scorching hot on Tuesday night, ending with 26 points and shooting 6-of-10 from distance. He led all scorers, but thanks to the suffocating nature of the Eagles’ defense, was the only player on Hope International’s roster to get into double-digits.
Following the Mejia-sparked run that made it a game again, the two teams would trade the lead 11 more times over the course of a first 20 minutes that saw the teams combine for just 54 total points.
Staring right at the loud and busy Hope International student section Archer hit a jump shot with just a few seconds left on the clock to hand his team a 28-26 halftime lead as just about nothing separated these two teams at the break.
Then it became a matter of which coach could better prepare their team coming out of the halftime break. While Bill Czech has done some tremendous things with the HIU program over the past few seasons and has the respect of everyone around the league there is no one who can compare to the Hall of Fame pedigree of Dr. Dave Holmquist.
His NAIA-leading defense ramped it up even a notch higher in the second half as the Eagles never fell behind over the course of the final 20 minutes. Biola held Hope international to just 25 percent shooting in the second half, but some issues with turnovers on offense allowed the Royals to be as close as three points back inside of a minute.
The difference in this one was Biola’s ability to come through down the stretch where Hope International could not. No example could illustrate this clearer than the fact that HIU missed their final three free-throw attempts of the game, all coming inside of the final 30 seconds.
On the contrary, Archer made all four free-throw attempts he took for the Eagles in the final 36 seconds. The Eagles even managed to get a takeaway on the final HIU possession of the game and drive the floor to score a buzzer-beater bucket to seal the score at 60-52.
“It was tight the whole game,” said Holmquist. “I don’t know what the difference was other than that we hit some shots down the stretch and they didn’t. We just seemed able to make some plays at the end.”
Biola had three players hit double-digits as Terrell Funches (12) and Jeff Gonzalez (12) joined the efforts of Archer. Funches was one rebound shy of a double-double as he pulled down a team-high nine boards.
The Eagles did most of their damage inside as 28 of the team’s 60 points came in the paint. The defense held HIU to just 14 points in the paint in another dominating effort. The Royals came into tonight’s game averaging 78.2 points-per-game and the Eagles held them to 52.
“It’s just a special, special year,” said Holmquist. “This will be very memorable for us and these guys will be in touch the rest of their lives.”
It’s not all written into memory just yet as this team still has some work to do on the court at the NAIA National Championship Tournament. The No. 3 Eagles wait to see what their ranking is in the final regular-season Top-25 Coaches’ Poll will be. This ranking will determine the team’s seeding for next week’s NAIA National Tournament in Kansas City, Mo.