BYUH falls short again
• Photo gallery: BYU-Hawaii basketball at Regionals
By Mike Bennett
Special to The Advertiser
BELLINGHAM, Wash. — Brigham Young Hawai'i kept digging holes and clawing out of them last night in its quest to finally make the Elite 8 in NCAA Division II basketball.
When the Seasiders rallied, though, Cal Poly Pomona always had the answer.
The poised Broncos would make an extra pass for a wide-open 3-pointer or a lay-up. They would win the battle for loose balls.
The result was a 78-75 victory for the Broncos and their second straight trip to the Elite 8.
For the Seasiders, their season ended again in the West Regional final to Cal Poly Pomona.
"It's frustrating being there three years in a row. It hurts a little," said senior Lucas Alves. "Our goal was to go all the way."
Alves finished his career with game-highs of 26 points and 10 rebounds.
Last year, the 25-6 Broncos wrestled the title away with a big rally in the final minutes in Lā'ie.
This year, they staggered BYU-Hawai'i with a season-high 10 3-pointers in the game before a crowd of 253 at Western Washington University.
Seven of the treys came in the first half as the Broncos capitalized on a listless start by the Seasiders for a 36-25 halftime lead.
Still, BYUH recovered to lead by three points late in the second half — and also had three tries for a tie with 3-pointers in the final seconds.
Alves was relentless in helping revive the Seasiders. He scored 22 points in the second half, including a monster dunk while surrounded by three defenders.
Jet Chang added 21 points, Virgil Buensuceso 13 and Anthony Reilly 11 for BYU-Hawai'i.
"We've been there so many times," said Austin Swift, who led Cal Poly Pomona with 19 points. "Every game comes down to the final five minutes. We know what it takes — control and tempo."
Chang was long with two 3-point tries and Reilly was short at the final buzzer as BYU-Hawai'i ended its season at 22-6.
Despite several sloppy stretches, the Seasiders fought back to take a 66-63 lead on a layup and free throw by Reilly with 4:52 to go.
BYUH would maintain its lead until a 3-pointer by Donnelle Booker moved the Broncos back ahead 72-70 with 2:09 left.
After the teams traded layups, another 3-pointer by Swift with 45 seconds left made it 77-72.
Chang then countered 9 seconds later with a trey from the left corner.
Cal Poly Pomona's Mark Rutledge hit the second of two free-throw attempts to make it 78-75 with 26 seconds to go.
The Broncos' 10 3-pointers were six more than their average.
"That was part of the plan," said Cal Poly Pomona coach Greg Kamansky — to counter the Seasiders' size advantage. "If they are going to leave our shooters open, they are going to pay."
The Broncos hit five in a row at one point in the first half as BYU-Hawai'i struggled to gain a rhythm.
The Seasiders fell behind 9-2 with the help of six turnovers. They then rallied with nine straight points, only to fall behind again after a 17-3 run by the Broncos.
"I don't know why we fell asleep (on defense)," said Seasiders coach Ken Wagner. "We should have been ready to go. That's not very characteristic."