RIVERSIDE, Calif. – All night long he was the object of their affection, until he scorned them in the end -- leaving them jilted, bitter and angry as they exited stage left.
Kimarley Williams’ rebound of a Mike Caffese missed free throw and his subsequent strong move to the basket for a left-handed lay-up with 13 seconds left was the difference in Azusa Pacific’s 86-83 overtime upset of the NAIA’s No. 14-ranked California Baptist University Saturday evening before a capacity crowd in Van Dyne Gym.
The victory snaps Cal Baptist’s 15-game home court winning streak and keeps Azusa Pacific in a tie for second place in the GSAC while dropping the Lancers to fourth place, a game behind Azusa Pacific and Concordia University.
“That was an absolute display of grit and heart,” said Azusa Pacific head coach Justin Leslie. “It was a simple game plan tonight because Cal Baptist scouts very well and is very good at executing its defensive scheme against us. I just asked for heart and extra effort at key times, and the guys gave it to me.”
Williams scored 7 of his 12 points in the final 6 minutes of the game, offering heroic plays to force overtime and to eventually win the game.
“Kimarley’s game is hustle, defense and rebounding,” added Leslie. “In key moments he called upon his strengths. Not only to get the rebounds but to finish them was very impressive.”
Azusa Pacific rallied from 9 down in the second half to assure overtime and then made in improbable comeback from 7 down in overtime to sweep the season series from Cal Baptist and remain the only school to beat the Lancers in Riverside the past 2 seasons.
As he took the court for warm-ups prior to tip-off, Williams was greeted by an enthusiastic set of “CBU Crazies,” a student fan section armed with pictures and posters poking fun of Williams. And throughout the game they continually reminded him of their presence. In the end, though, it was Williams who was talking and more so with a pointing gesture to his bicep after his go-ahead lay-up.
“Their fans were teasing me all night, and I didn’t say a thing. I just smiled the whole time,” said Williams. “I pointed to my muscle because I got them in the end. I was strong.”
On the strength of All-GSAC center David Burgess, who scored 6 of his 15 points in the first 3 minutes of play, Azusa Pacific assumed a 38-34 lead at halftime, tailing just twice with 1-point deficits while controlling play for much of the half.
Cal Baptist though rallied behind speedy guard Omar Krayem, using a 20-6 run the first 7 minutes of the second half to assume a comfortable 53-44 lead. From there the Lancers opted to spread the court and manage the game clock by winding the shot clock. The deliberate play allowed Azusa Pacific to force a pair of shot-clock violations while slowly chipping away at the Lancer lead.
Caffese’s 3-ball capped the comeback and tied the game at 62-all with 4:30 left in the regulation, setting up a dramatic finish.
Williams converted a conventional 3-point play with 74 seconds left in the regulation to tie the game again at 72. Following another Lancer shot clock violation, Williams put-back in a mad flurry around the basket gave Azusa Pacific a 74-72 lead with 24 seconds remaining for the Cougars’ first lead since the opening minutes of the second half.
However, Krayem calmly converted a pair of free throws with 17 seconds to add to the drama by assuring overtime
“With their fans getting into it, this is a great place to play,” said Caffese. “And this is one of the more enjoyable games I’ve played in during my Azusa Pacific career. I just wanted to soak it up, have fun but keep my poise.”
In the extra frame CBU bolted to an 81-74 lead capped by a Mark Roussin trey from the top of the key with 3:11 left in the game. It was the last Lancer field goal of the night.
The Cougars, who had made their cause all that more difficult on the night by missing 10-of-28 free throws in regulation, suddenly found their touch at the line while the Lancers went ice cold at the charity stripe, missing 4-of-6 down the stretch. A Caffese split-of-the-gut lay-up with 24 seconds left pulled the Cougars to within 1 at 82-81.
Roussin then made just 1-of-2 free throws to push the CBU lead back to 2 at 83-81. Caffese, who was fouled by Krayem at the other end, followed with a made free throw to again pull the Cougars back to within 1 with 13.1 seconds left. His second attempt went long and hit the back iron, rebounding deep back into the key where Williams out-leaped several players to secure the ball. He took 1 dribble and used the rim to shield himself from defenders as he neatly tucked the ball into the basket to give Azusa Pacific its first lead since the early moments of the second half at 84-83.
“The ball came right into the key, and I tried my best to jump as high as everybody else and it came into my hands,” described Williams of his rebound. “I never at all made a left-handed lay-up in my 2 years at Azusa Pacific until tonight.”
Out of a Lancer timeout, a Krayem-Roussin miscommunication resulted in errant pass sailing out-of-bounds beyond the end line with 6.8 seconds remaining. All that was left was a pair of insurance free throws by Mike Danielian for the final margin of victory.
“We knew out of the time out it was going to be Roussin and Krayem for them,” said Leslie. “Normally, Cal Baptist gets you to come up and guard you at half court and then hit you with a quick one. Tonight we didn’t go up there and guard them so that they had to pass down or try to make a play, and we had 5 people down there to defend them.”
Krayem led all players with 23 points while Brandon Johnson came off the bench to toss in a season-high 15. Roussin finished with 14, and Davey Hopkins aided the Lancer cause with 12 points.
Dominique Johnson led Azusa Pacific with 20 points, half of which came at the free throw line. Williams notched a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds.
With the victory Azusa Pacific improves to 16-7 overall, 9-4 in the GSAC. Cal Baptist, which is 30-2 at home over the past 2 season with both losses coming to Azusa Pacific, falls to 17-5 overall, 8-5 in the GSAC.
“Playing here in Riverside is a challenge, and I told the guys to respect Cal Baptist’s success at home,” said Leslie. “Cal Baptist has great fans. I can’t believe how funny they are, and they are great into the game. But we had to have poise tonight, and we did.”