Strong second-half effort allows Biola to escape away territory with victory

If there was one word to describe the Cougars conference play this season, it would be mastery. After two early defeats, the Cougars went on one of the strongest conference runs in program history, winning 20 consecutive PacWest matchups which were enough to win their first outright PacWest title.

Thanks to APU’s regular-season brilliance, they had the first seed and awaited the victor of Thursday’s matchup to play them in the semifinals on Friday. Biola escaped with an 86-77 victory over Concordia, setting the Cougars up with a date against their Cornerstone Cup rival on Friday night.

The game began favoring the Cougars. In fact, it seemed as if the Cougars would escape with a dominant victory, as eight minutes in APU was up 22-5. However, Biola continued to chip their way back into the contest, and at the half, the Cougars lead was down to 10 at 42-32.

Momentum suddenly shifted for the Eagles throughout the second half. It continued to be back and forth between the two teams throughout the first ten minutes of the second, with the game being knotted at 58 with 12 minutes left to go. The Eagles obtained their first lead of the contest on the next play after Chris Rossow made a free throw attempt.

APU answered with a 7-0 run of their own, which gave them back their lead late in the game. Yet the Eagles continued to battle, taking the lead back with less than five minutes remaining. A late three-point shot by Terrence Becvar tied the game at 79 with 57 seconds remaining on the game clock.

Both teams had a chance to take the lead on their next possessions, yet neither team was able to capitalize on their layup attempts. After the Cougars missed a layup, Biola took a 30-second timeout with 22 clicks left on the scoreboard.

The play designed by head coach Dave Holmquist resulted in a good three-point look by Michael Bagatourian who was placed at the right-wing. He took the shot, which he eventually drained. And with only two seconds left on the game clock, the Cougars found themselves down 82-79. They took a timeout, and Brennan Rymer took a deep three-point shot from the top of the key, but the shot did not fall, resulting in APU’s defeat.

Despite the loss, it was PacWest Player of the Year, Selom Mawugbe, who stole the show for the Cougars. He ended the game with 20 points, 19 rebounds, five assists, three blocks and three steals in 34 minutes. Becvar was also phenomenal coming off the bench, going three for six behind the arc and scoring 17 points. 

Nevertheless, Biola’s Chris Rossow was the star of the game. His 27 points led all scorers, going nine for 17 from the field and going a perfect seven for seven from the free-throw line. He also acquired seven of the team’s 17 assists, leading all players in that statistic as well.

Biola played the championship game on Saturday against Point Loma, who finished second in the PacWest standings in 2020. Ultimately, Point Loma went on to win an exciting 98-95 overtime contest, giving the Sea Lions the PacWest championship.

As for the Cougars, they will now focus on the DII NCAA Tournament which is set to begin next weekend. With a 25-4 record, they will be seeded in the tournament live today at 7:30 p.m on the NCAA official website.