Fullerton, CA- Hope International Men's Basketball punched their ticket to their first ever GSAC Championship game with a 61-56 win over The Master's on Saturday. The third seeded men will face top seeded Vanguard at their place on Tuesday for the GSAC Championship. Junior Matt Green delivered a big night with 19 points aided by four three pointers.
The HIU men were trying to join the HIU women as the first two Hope International teams to ever qualify for the GSAC Championship game in their sport.
Standing in the way of the men was The Master's.
Two plus minutes into the contest, Junior Austin Sanford scored the first two points of the night. Following a miss by the Mustangs (19-12), Green pushed the HIU lead out to 5-0 when he buried his first three pointer of the night.
TMC closed the gap to 5-4 before HIU used a 6-2 run keyed by an HIU duo off the bench to build an 11-6 edge. Senior Jeremy Kilgore managed his first two points of the night to begin the run. Junior James Bailey delivered a perfect backdoor lob from above the three point arc for Senior Regan Andersen to slam home. The next trip down the floor, Bailey connected for two points of his own with a long jumper.
Over the next five minutes, the Royals (22-9) extended their lead to their largest first half edge of nine points at 17-8 capped by another dunk from Andersen.
The Mustangs used an 8-0 run to get within one at 17-16 before HIU closed out the half 10-4 to take a 27-20 advantage into the locker room.
Sanford led all scorers with eight points in the first twenty minutes. Jason Logan topped TMC with seven points.
HIU scored the first three points of the second half as they built their biggest lead of 10 points at 30-20 with 16:34 left in the game.
But the Mustangs were not ready to fold their tents as over the course of the next nine minutes they used a 21-11 answer to knot the game at 41-41- the only tie of the contest.
Over the next 90 seconds, Green put HIU on his shoulders as he knocked down a jumper followed back-to-back three pointers. Kilgore earned an assist on the first three before grabbing the defensive rebound in between the threes.
Closing in on three minutes left to play, Green nailed his final three pointer of the night from about 10 feet behind the three point line.
Down the stretch, HIU converted enough of their free throws to lock up the win.
Behind the 19 points of Green, Kilgore ended his night with 11 points. Sanford contributed 10 points on the strength of 6-8 shooting from the charity stripe.
For the Mustangs, they were led by 13 points from Logan and 11 points each from Derrick Fain and Zach Stalin off the bench.
Head Coach Bill Czech commented, "What a four day period for Hope International University. I really think the women's team historic victory over the #1 team in the nation really inspired our guys. I know a lot of them went to the game and that effort by our girls really seemed to inspire our guys. It was really amazing to see that. In all the years I've coached I've never seen a guy's team draw so much inspiration from a women's team. I can't be more proud of this group of guys, they have been the best group of Christian men I have ever been around. They are an absolute pleasure to coach."
Coach Czech continued, "The Master's has been one of the hottest teams in the GSAC the second half of conference and I believe they should get a bid to the National Tournament as they are very, very good and extremely well coached. Tonight for us everyone contributed to the win, Green was unbelievable making four three's all at the key times. Andersen, Bailey, and (Sophomore ) Tuff Barnes were almost perfect. Andersen has worked extremely hard all year and when his opportunity came tonight he really stepped up to the occasion. Bailey was fabulous playing a mistake free game. We are truly appreciative of the opportunity to play a great team like Vanguard on Tuesday night- it should be a lot of fun. Thanks again for the support from the student body- they were awesome as usual."
The Royals will play Vanguard for all the GSAC marbles on Tuesday at 8:00 pm down in Costa Mesa. The lady Royals will face off against the lady Mustangs for the GSAC WBB crown at Vanguard at 5:00 pm. Both games will be televised live on the stations Fox College Sports and Fox Sports Prime Ticket. The Mustang men hope that they made enough noise at the end of the season to get a look by the NAIA Nationals selection committee.