APU: Troy Leaf 23 pts, 3 reb
CBU: Gelaun Wheelwright 35 pts, 4 reb, 4 stl
Azusa Pacific won the showdown with PacWest rival California Baptist for the West Region Championship 91-79 in the Felix Event Center on Monday night.
“We don’t pass the eye test. It’s after teams play us they realize that were pretty good. Even going into this tournament, people were saying that we shouldn’t have been the host,” said head coach Justin Leslie. “All that did was fire us up. We don’t pass the eye test but I’ll tell you what, we’re going to bring it out there.”
The Lancers came out very strong in the first several minutes, taking a 10-5 lead. However, junior guard Lydell Cardwell’s 3-point shot capped a Cougar run to tie it up at 12 with a little less than 11 minutes to play. The teams battled to halftime, with Azusa Pacific holding the 35-33 edge.
The Cougars came out in the second half with their traditional fast-paced, high-scoring offense to put together a 27-8 run. They never looked back from their dominating lead and closed out the game with the double-digit win.
Troy Leaf was the leading scorer for Azusa Pacific with 23 points, followed by Kevin Stafford with 17. Both were named to the West Region tournament team, with Leaf earning the nod for Most Outstanding Player.
The Cougars’ bench produced 32 points, and eight players scored at least six points each.
“You get that extra confidence because you know that this is a complete team. … When you get subbed in for you, you know that someone is going to have your back and get after it for you and play just as hard as you play,” Stafford said. “Maybe your shots aren’t falling, but the next guy coming in has confidence, and he is going to pick you up where you fall.”
Azusa Pacific advances to the Elite Eight in Evansville, Indiana. The tournament will be held March 26-28.