The atmosphere in the Anaheim Convention Center was intense with only seven seconds left on the clock, as Pacific lead Northridge by two points.
Forward Ian Boylan held the ball for a second or two. He then passed it to Guard Joseph Frazier at the right side, behind the three-point line.
Frazier launched the three-point shot as thousands of fans in the stands watched and the shot…didn’t fall.
So goes the story of the Big West semifinal game, where Northridge could not reach its goal of being championship-bound, falling just short to the Pacific Tigers in a 63-61 loss.
Pacific, entered the tournament as the 16th ranked team in the nation and extended their winning streak to 22 games. However, the Tigers would go on to lose in the Championship game to Utah State 65-52.
“I just told our guys that it wouldn’t be an exaggeration for me to say that I’m the most proud coach in the country,” Coach Bobby Braswell said after the game. “I am absolutely humbled by the effort that these guys gave tonight.”
The Matadors had a reason to show effort.
They were doing well early in the game and at the 11-and-a-half minute mark, trailed by just one point. They even tied the game with Pacific on three different occasions.
But Pacific broadened its lead to 26-11, when Johnny Gray sparked a 14-0 run by hitting a three-pointer.
The Matadors didn’t give up, though, as Boylan was the man who helped the Matadors rally back to within eight points on a jumper that finished the teams 7-0 run.
Boylan scored a team-high 32 points, to go along with six rebounds and seven steals. This performance was carried out as several fans yelled out his name throughout the game.
Frazier had 11 points, four rebounds and two steals.
By the end of the first half, the Matadors had made just 6 of 29 field goals, less then 21 percent. The team still carried hope despite their 34-24 deficit.
Pacific’s lead would have been much higher had the team not given up 23 turnovers, including 13 just in the first half. CSUN committed just nine turnovers the entire game.
But besides Boylan, the Matadors were unable to convert most of Irvine’s turnovers into points.
“Believe it or not, I said we’re only down 10,” Braswell said. “We’ve been in deeper situations before. We just have to come out and win the first four minutes.”
And, for the most part, the Matadors did win the first four minutes defensively and offensively, going on a 9-2 run and closing Pacific’s lead to just three.
The Matadors battled, but could not catch up, until Frazier stole the ball from Pacific’s Mike Webb and maneuvered around Webb to lay it up and put CSUN up 62-61.
But they didn’t hold on to the lead for long.
The Tigers made three crucial free throws over the last 22 seconds of the game, with Tyler Newton hitting two and Jasko Korajkic, the other. Overall, the Tigers made 19 out of 26 from the line.
The Matadors made 18 out of 21.
“I thought our post guys could outplay their post guys, and I think we did, and that was the only reason we won the game,” Tiger’s Coach Bob Thomason said.
Pacific made some mistakes and got away with it, Thomason said.
Forward Christian Maraker, the second-highest-scoring player for Pacific, had 13 points, seven rebounds and one assist.
“(Pacific) can’t take anything for certain” when it came to the Tiger’s winning the championship, Maraker said.
Center Guillaume Yango led Pacific in scoring with 15 points and added eight rebounds and one block.
Thomason said he didn’t know how Pacific won the game turning the ball over 23 times.
The loss was almost identical to that of last year.
“It’s frustrating,” Braswell said.
Braswell commended his team, and especially the seniors, since it was their last game.
“If you’re going to go out as a senior, what better way for Ian Boylan to go out,” Braswell said.
He said his consistent scoring and defense sums up Boylan’s career.
“I’m very, very proud of him, and I just wish it could’ve ended differently for him,” Braswell said.
Boylan said the loss was “very painful.”
“It’s no more a victory. I didn’t come here to play and get in the semifinals … but it gave us a chance to win,” he said.
Braswell said he will miss the seniors, and doesn’t even want to think about how different the future team will be.
“We’re going to miss them; there’s no doubt about it,” Braswell said. “Every one of these guys brings something that’s a little bit unique, a little bit different to our program.”
“The goal for me is when we get guys, is that they leave here better men, better basketball players and better students,” Braswell said. “And I think we’ve done well in this case, because I think all four of these (seniors) are going to leave here better.”