Sloan Sends Cougars to Semis

Bryce Sloan’s free throw with 2.7 seconds left was the difference. (Photo by Duane Barker).

By Bud Stallworth

(Los Angeles)—The Azusa Pacific Cougars defeated the Cal State Los Angeles Golden Eagles, 60-59, at Billie Jean King Arena on Friday night in the quarterfinal of the NCAA Division II West Regional Championship.

Bryce Sloan’s free throw with 2.7 remaining proved to be the difference in the APU win and the cap to a chaotic final minute.

Ken West led the Cougars with 14 points. (Photo by Duane Barker).

After the Cougars built a 12-point, 35-23, lead in the first half, the Golden Eagles turned to a full-court press in the second half to crawl back into the game.

Without a Raymond Lewis jersey hanging in the rafters, Cal State LA tied the game at 47 with 7:18 to play and briefly took the lead on a Shane Bell basket with 4:31 remaining.

APU’s Ethan Speaker quickly tied the score, and George Reidy put the Cougars on top, 55-53, with 2:47 to play. Then, after successive defensive stops, Speaker scored on a reverse layup and a one-handed turnaround in the lane with 54 seconds left to make it 59-53.

Bell brought the Golden Eagles to within four on a runner in the lane. Cal State followed with a timeout with 44.5 left on the clock.

This led to back-to-back steals by the Golden Eagles on Cougar inbound plays. First, Bell and then Eche Okeke tied the score at 59 with 31.5 to play in the game.

Ethan Speaker scored 11 for APU including a key bucket to tie the score down the stretch. (Photo by Duane Barker).

APU called timeout and inbounded the ball to Reidy, but the Cal State defense forced the ball loose, and the Golden Eagles took possession and called timeout.

With 24.9 on the clock, the pass from the sideline went to Bell, who caught it in the front court, but his momentum took him to the backcourt.

The over-and-back call was made to give APU the ball.

As the clock ran down to 7.6, the Cougars called another timeout. The play was designed to go to 6-11 center Kaleb Taylor. The pass was batted away, but Sloan got the loose ball and was fouled.

Sloan’s first attempt went off the front of the rim, but the second was true, giving APU a 60-59 lead. The Golden Eagles got the ball up-court to Bell, but his 40-foot heave went off the heel of the rim.

Corey Cofield led all scorers with 16-points. Bell finished with 13, and Okeke scored 12 for Cal State. Ken West led APU with 14-points, Reidy and Speaker finished with 11 each.

The teams were even in rebounds APU 34-30, but Cal State was stung by 19 turnovers to the Cougars 13. APU shot 46% from the floor, the Golden Eagles just 39%. The Cougars got 13-points off the bench, Cal State only 4.

The victory advances APU to the semifinals of the D-2 West Regionals against the winner of Central Washington and Cal State Dominguez.

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