Fresno - The Fresno Pacific University Sunbirds gave big lift to their postseason aspirations with a 64-57 upset win over No.13 San Diego Christian tonight in the Special Events Center.
It was the last regular season home game for FPU seniors Lesego Molebatsi, Josh Urbiztondo, Rudy Lopez, Nate Yoder and A.C. Calderon, and they came through with a big effort.
"I'm so proud of our guys, especially the seniors," said FPU head coach Clark Sheehy. "This is a great win for them against a quality opponent. We struggled a bit in the first half, but we strung together some good possessions in the second half and made free throws down the stretch."
A free throw by San Diego Christian's Rowan Gray with 91 seconds to play tied the game at 57-57. It turned out to be the Hawks final point of the evening.
Twenty-one seconds later Lopez' reverse layup, set up by a perfect lob pass by Calderon, put FPU up by a pair 59-57. Lopez drained a pair of free throws, after being fouled by Drew Sanchez, with 44.7 left to give FPU a 4-point lead (61-57).
The Hawks rimmed a 3-point attempt oneach of their final two possessions then fouled on the rebound. Jordan Beshore made one of two with 31 seconds to play and Molebatsi iced it with a pair with just nine seconds tleft on the clock.
"This is a nice way to end our home season," said Molebatsi. "This is a big win. We played well tonight."
Molebatsi led FPU (14-13, 7-12) with 23 points and six rebounds. Urbiztondo scored 20 points, while Lopez finished with 10 points and seven rebounds.
Tyler Hayes led the Hawks (19-8, 13-6) with 13 points. Gray finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds, while Sanchez chipped in with 11 points.
The win lifts FPU into an eight-place tie with The Master's and California Baptist. All three have identical 7-12 GSAC records and one game remaining. Only one team will claim the eighth and final postseason berth.
The Sunbirds hold the tie-break advantage over The Master's (by virtue of a 2-0 sweep this season), but were swept by the Lancers.
For FPU to make the GSAC postseason tournament, they need a win on Monday night combined with a California Baptist loss.
The Sunbirds travel to Fullerton Monday to wrap up the season against Hope International (0-25, 0-19). The Lancers will be in La Mirada to face Biola (19-10, 11-8), while the Mustangs travel to El Cajon to take on San Diego Christian (19-8, 13-6).
The GSAC postseason tournament begins on Thursday, March 2. The eventual eighth place finisher would earn the right to travel to GSAC champion Azusa Pacific (24-5, 15-4).
#13 Hawks: 19-8, 13-6
Sunbirds: 14-13, 7-12
Today's contest was the 22nd in a series that dates back to January 5, 1988. The Hawks now hold a 16-6 advantage, including a 11-3 edge in GSAC games.
Final Game of the Regular Season
Monday, February 27 (7:30) - The Sunbirds will travel to Fullerton to face Hope International University Royals in the final contest of the regular season.
GSAC Championship Tournament
The GSAC postseason championship tournament begins, Tuesday March 2, with four quarterfinal games, each at the home of the higher seeded team.
Fresno Pacific University offers undergraduate and graduate programs that stress solid academic preparation and a strong ethical foundation. Each year more than 2,000 traditional and adult students attend classes on the 42-acre main campus in southeast Fresno or centers in Visalia and Bakersfield. The university also reaches 12,000 students across the nation and around the world through professional development studies programs. The only four-year Christian university in the Central Valley, FPU is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges and ranked in the top quarter among Western universities master's category by U.S. News & World Report.