Oh, So Close
The Master’s College had Cal Poly Pomona right where it wanted. The Mustangs led the NCAA Division II Broncos by seven points with just over four minutes to play and were on the cusp of upsetting the country’s 14th-ranked squad.
But then the well went dry, the Mustangs failing to score the rest of the way while the Broncos galloped ever closer before rallying ahead on a three-pointer and then clinching a 58-56 victory with a free throw inside the final 10 seconds.
The heartbreaking loss, before a raucous Bross Gym crowd, snapped a modest two-game winning streak and left the Mustangs at 8-2.
That 56-49 lead the Mustangs held with 4:28 left to play was forged by an 11-2 run in a 5:32 window of the second half in which the Broncos scored only two points. Freshman Jon Hogan ignited the burst with a go-ahead three-pointer, Mike Harmon duplicated that, Paul Brown added a big three-point play, and Anthony Cammon capped things off with a jumper.
But, just when it appeared the Broncos were dead, they roared back. In the process of scoring nine straight points to close out the game and the win, they blanked the Mustangs and came away with the white-knuckle win.
After Bronco Matt Rosser missed the back of end of a pair of free throws with eight ticks left on the clock, the Mustangs had one last chance but junior Leif Karlberg was picked clean in the final seconds and the visitors danced away with the victory.
It was a tough loss to swallow for the Mustangs who set the pace in the first half and played well enough to win. During the first 20 minutes, the club trailed a couple of times in the opening minutes and then gained control with an 11-2 run. Hogan fueled the skein with a three-point play, Karlberg hit a jumper, Cammon drained a three-pointer, and Karlberg capped it off with another trifecta.
The Broncos chipped away at the deficit, closing to 17-15 with 12:05 left in the first half but another Cammon three-ball and a Hogan layup extended the lead to seven points a little over a minute later.
A Harmon three-pointer, one of six poured in by the Mustangs in the first half, made it a 25-17 game at the 8:17 mark. Maintaining control and their composure, the Mustangs were still up 33-25 with 3:27 left before the Broncos started to show why they were one of the nation’s best clubs. Holding the Mustangs scoreless over the final three minutes, the Broncos surged back and sent the game to halftime deadlocked at 33 with a closing 8-0 run.
That skein reached 13-0 when the Broncos initiated the second half with five straight points. Although the Mustangs rallied back to within 38-36 on a Karlberg three-pointer at 16:43, the visitors kept the hosts at arms’ length until the Mustangs made the move that set up the furious closing minutes.
After shooting 59% from the field in a solid first half, the Mustangs slipped to 39% accuracy over the final 20 minutes.
Cammon, who drilled a trio of three-pointers and was 5-7 from the field, paced four Mustangs in double figures with 13 points. Karlberg tallied 12 more points and Hogan and Harmon came off the bench to score 11 points apiece. Brown played a big defensive game for the Mustangs, grabbing a game-high eight rebounds and blocking four shots.
Now, the Mustangs take a week off for finals and then jump back into GSAC play next Saturday at San Diego Christian.