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 baseball picked to finish sixth in PacWest

Fresno Pacific baseball coach Oscar Hirschkorn

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.

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.

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.

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).