Slow start finally gets to Fresno Pacific men’s basketball team

Fresno Pacific and Matt Samuels, driving against Hawaii Hilo’s C.J. Brown on Monday, Jan. 14, 2013, will play in the consolation final at the NCCAA national championships on Saturday. (CRAIG KOHLRUSS/THE FRESNO BEE)

Slow starts lately plagued the Fresno Pacific men’s basketball team, and that was a concern for Sunbirds coach Chris Wright. But usually the Sunbirds would kick-start in the second half and end up winning.

That sort of happened Thursday, but the outcome was different this time.

Shorter (Ga.) jumped out to a 28-12 lead in the first half en route to to a 104-95 victory over the Sunbirds in the National Christian College Athletic Association Tournament semifinal in Winona Lake, Ind.

“Started slow again,” Fresno Pacific coach Chris Wright said. “We couldn’t get over the hump.”

The Hawks built a 54-39 halftime lead, but the Sunbirds went on a 11-0 run to open the second half and later cut Shorter lead to 54-50. The Hawks then took control with 12:52 left in the half on a pair of free-throws by Dedric Ware for a 65-54 lead.

Sunbirds guard John Taylor, coming off a 50 point outing against Roberts Wesleyan, was in foul trouble all game and Malcolm Griffin did all he could finishing with a game-high 29 points and 10 rebounds. Taylor chipped in with 27 points and Matt Samuels added 16.

“Our guys battled hard,” Wright said. “But you can’t spot a good team with 14 points in the first 6 minutes and recover easily.”

The Hawks, who will play for the national title on Saturday, had all five starters score in double figures, led by Anthony Banks who finished with 28 points.

The Sunbirds (21-8) will play for the consolation championship against the loser of No. 2 Cedarville and No. 3 Oklahoma Christian at 7 a.m. PDT Saturday.

Sunbirds punch ticket to NCCAA men’s nationals in Indiana

Fresno Pacific head coach Chris Wright makes a call from the bench during their game against Hawaii Hilo at Fresno Pacific Monday, January 14, 2013.
CRAIG KOHLRUSS/THE FRESNO BEE

The Fresno Pacific men’s basketball team beat Azusa Pacific on Wednesday and is now headed to the National Christian College Athletic Association finals on March 13-16 in Winona Lake, Ind.

The Sunbirds built a 53-35 lead against Azusa but were facing foul trouble to two of their starters. Malcolm Griffin and Antonio Credit each had four fouls, but coach Chris Wright decided to keep them in with 16 minutes remaining.

“Rolled the dice,” he said. “Fortunately, it worked out for us.”

Azusa Pacific rallied to cut the halftime deficit to 57-46, then went ahead 72-70 on Troy Leaf’s three-point play with 14:14 remaining in the game.

The Sunbirds led 86-85 with 7:39 remaining, but Griffin’s dunk capped a 9-2 run that made it 95-87 with 5:24 left.

After Azusa got within 106-103 with 28 seconds left, Taylor hit 1 of 2 free throws and Matt Samuels hit a pair to seal he Sunbirds’ 20th win.

“Twenty wins is special,” Wright said. “I’m excited for us to get to Indiana. It will be fun to compete for a national title.”

Taylor finished with 39 points, Samuels added 20 and Griffin chipped in with 19.

The Sunbirds (20-7) will find out Sunday who they will play on March 13. Fresno Pacific will likely be one of the top seeds in the eight-team tournament at Grace College.

Fresno Pacific men’s basketball team eyes top seed in NCCAA West

Fresno Pacific’s Rickey Vick goes to the hoop on a fast break against Hawaii Hilo in their game at Fresno Pacific Monday, January 14, 2013.
CRAIG KOHLRUSS/THE FRESNO BEE

Even though the Fresno Pacific men’s basketball team isn’t eligible to play in the Pacific West Conference tournament and the NCAA Division II tournament, it doesn’t mean the Sunbirds can’t go to a postseseason tournament.

There is a realistic shot that the Sunbirds could go to the National Christian College Athletic Association tournament that is comprised of faith-based schools from DI, DII, DIII and NAIA.

Teams are divided into regions and must survive that field to qualify for the national tournament. The Sunbirds would be the top seed if the season ended today. The West Region playoffs will be comprised of four teams with the higher seed hosting.

Region winners would then move on to the national tournament in Winoa Lake, Ind. on March 5.

As of now, the top four West Region teams are:

1. Fresno Pacific (15-7, 10-4)

2. Arizona Christian (17-6, 7-4)

3. Cal Baptist (13-9, 7-7)

4. Azusa Pacific (9-11, 6-6)

Other teams:

5. Hope International (22-5, 7-4)

6. Point Loma (4-18, 1-13)

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Sunbirds baseball picked to finish sixth in PacWest

Fresno Pacific baseball coach Oscar Hirschkorn
THE FRESNO BEE

Fresno Pacific baseball coach Oscar Hirschkorn wasn’t surprised when he learned that his team was forecast to finish sixth out of 10 teams in its inaugural Pacific West Conference baseball season in a vote of league coaches.

“League doesn’t know much about us,” he said. “I didn’t think we would be put very high. That’s OK. End of the season is what matters.”

The Sunbirds, who opened the season with a three-game sweep of San Francisco State, host Cal State Stanislaus in the 2 p.m. home opener Friday.

Defending conference champion Cal Baptist is picked to repeat, picking up six of the 10 first-place votes. The Lancers are a former Golden State Athletic Conference rival of the Sunbirds, with both teams now in NCAA Division II.

Grand Canyon, under second-year coach and former major leaguer Andy Stankiewicz, earned three firsts and was picked second.

Also new to the league are Point Loma and Holy Names.

Sunbirds’ win streak ends

Fresno Pacific’s Malcolm Griffin grabs a rebound against Hawaii Hilo in their game at Fresno Pacific Monday, January 14, 2013.
CRAIG KOHLRUSS/THE FRESNO BEE

The Fresno Pacific men’s basketball team couldn’t overcome a hot-shooting night by Dixie State on Tuesday. The Red Storm shot 71% from the field en route to a 106-91 victory, snapping the Sunbirds’ seven-game win streak in a Pacific West Conference showdown in St. George, Utah.

The loss dropped the Sunbirds into a third-place tie with Grand Canyon.

Fresno Pacific did manage to force the Red Storm into a season-high 24 turnovers, but were outscored 54-24 in the paint as the Red Storm ran their win streak to eight games.

“They absolutely shot the heck out of (the ball) – some of that was us and some of that was them,” Fresno Pacific coach Chris Wright said. “I thought we showed a lot of character to come back from 26 down to make it a six point game. We have to defend better.”

The Sunbirds return home Saturday night to face Azusa Pacific.

Sunbirds men’s hoops put streak on line in showdown

Fresno Pacific’s Matt Samuels drives against Hawaii Hilo’s C.J. Brown in their game at Fresno Pacific on Jan. 14, 2013. (CRAIG KOHLRUSS/THE FRESNO BEE)

Can the Fresno Pacific men’s basketball team get closer to Dixie State?

We’ll see.

The Sunbirds put their seven-game winning streak on the line against the Pacific West Conference leader on Tuesday in St. George, Utah. The Sunbirds trail the Red Storm by two games.

Dixie State has won seven straight, edging Grand Canyon 65-64 on Saturday while the Sunbirds rolled to a 108-62 victory over Holy Names.

Sunbirds coach Chris Wright has a simple game plan: “We have to do what we do, which is make the game fast-paced. We have to be very solid defensively and not get beat up on the glass.”

The Sunbirds defeated Dixie State 82-80 earlier this season. After Tuesday’s game, the Sunbirds return home to face Azusa Pacific on Saturday.

Injuries hit Sunbirds women hoops

The Fresno Pacific Sunbirds women’s basketball team has been hit hard with injuries this season, namely starters senior forward Keri Stephanoff and junior point guard Jenay Herring.

Stephanoff had been out with an undisclosed injury but returned Jan. 12 against Grand Canyon while Herring suffered a partially collapsed lung and a fractured rib against Cal Poly Pomona on Nov. 14. Sunbirds coach Erin Scholz said the team is seeking a redshirt season for Herring.

Despite the adversity, the Sunbirds will put a four-game winning streak on the line Saturday at Holy Names.

“It’s been tough,” Scholz said. “Over time, our team has grown and stayed connected. Just have to persevere.”

The Sunbirds started the season 0-14 before picking up their first win against Chaminade on Jan. 19.

Sunbirds men look to extend streak

Fresno Pacific’s Matt Samuels goes down low for a shot against Hawaii Hilo in their game at Fresno Pacific on Jan. 14.
CRAIG KOHLRUSS/THE FRESNO BEE

The Fresno Pacific men’s basketball team heads into Saturday’s game against Holy Names on a six-game winning streak, but Sunbirds coach Chris Wright is concerned with his team’s next challenge.

“Holy Names has struggled in league but are dangerous,” Wright said. “They have a couple of a knock-down shooters.”

Holy Names’ Tyler Fry is averaging 13.8 ppg and Ian Collins 11.8 ppg.

After Saturday’s Pacific West Conference game in Oakland, the Sunbirds will travel to St. George, Utah, and face conference leader Dixie State on Tuesday.

Fresno Pacific (13-6, 8-3) trails Dixie State by two games and Wright hopes his team doesn’t overlook Holy Names, which is 4-15 and 1-10 in conference.

“We need to come out and defend every possession,” he said. “Can’t allow them to have uncontested looks. Also, we need to attack their zone and get the ball inside where we have a huge advantage.”

The Sunbirds will be without senior guard/forward Rickey Vick (ankle).

Fresno’s Paul Islas drafted by MLS’s Chivas USA

Fresno Pacific University’s Paul Islas, right, has a shot blocked by Cal State Stanislaus’ Carlos Gavino, left, in a game Thursday night, August 30, 2012, in Fresno. (ERIC PAUL ZAMORA/THE FRESNO BEE)

Paul Islas — who honed his skills locally with the California Odyssey Soccer Club, Bullard High, Fresno Pacific and the Fresno Fuego — was selected Tuesday by Chivas USA with the 19th pick of Major League Soccer’s Supplemental Draft.

Islas, 21, is expected to report to the Carson-based Chivas USA’s training camp this week.

“This is my shot and I can’t let anything get in my way,” Islas said in a Fresno Pacific-issued news release. “I just have to go down and take care business.”

Islas is coming off a 22-goal, 12-assist senior season at Fresno Pacific, where he wasn named an NSCAA Division II All-American. He finished his four-year career as the Sunbirds’ third-leading career goal scorer (55) and assist maker (33).

“I think some people will look at it and say he comes from a smaller school, a smaller area and it’s hard to argue that,” Chivas USA Director of Soccer Operations Kevin Esparza said. “But the top goal scorer in the MLS this past year is a player that came from a Division II school. We will take a gamble and I am looking forward to watching Paul prove everybody wrong.” Read more →