LA MIRADA, Calif. – When it seemed impossible for it to go any higher, the lore of the Azusa Pacific-Biola ascended to yet another sphere, solidifying that this rivalry has no peer in Southern California.
Unranked Biola, enduring an uncharacteristic sub-par season, rallied from a 25-point first-half deficit to knock off the NAIA’s No. 5-ranked Azusa Pacific, 72-69, before sellout crowd of over 1,900 in Chase Gymnasium Tuesday night.
Led by Quintin Lester’s 16 second-half points, Biola, which appeared to have been run out of the gym, came back from a 46-21 hole by riding Lester’s hot shooting and Abi Medupin’s inside play. The Eagles used a 19-2 run down the stretch to completely erase Azusa Pacific’s huge cushion and assume a 66-65 lead on a Gene Parker jumper with 4:08 left in the game.
From there it was a sprint to the finish. Lester assured the victory though when he picked Azusa Pacific’s Caleb Gervin and fed Medupin for a lay-up to give Biola a 68-67 lead it would not relinquish. Then after Lester blocked a Brett Michel shot and grabbed the loose ball, he buried a jumper in the key with 1:03 to give Biola an insurmountable 70-67 lead.
Azusa Pacific missed 3 chances to tie the game in the final 14 seconds, with Michel’s desperation shot just inside the half court stripe bouncing off the back of the rim as the final horn sounded.
“Biola isolated us a lot in the second half and our big men did a poor job of help defense,” Cougar coach Bill Odell explained of Biola’s second-half effort. “We’ve expected Biola to play that well all year. They are a very good team.”
Jeff Staniland led Azusa Pacific with 25 points, including 16 in the first half. His second trey of the game capped a 15-7 Cougar run from the opening gate.
Biola made just 3 field goals over a 12-minute stretch that allowed Azusa Pacific to take control of the game, highlighted by a Ladrick Simon jumper with 18 seconds remaining to give the Cougars a 46-21 lead. An Andrew Zahn 3-pointer with 3 seconds left in the half seemed innocent enough at the time, but evidently it spurred Biola to start the second half. The Eagles cut a huge chunk off the deficit in the first 5 minutes of the second half, pulling to within 9.
Back-to-back Azusa Pacific dunks by Gervin and Simon followed by a Biola technical foul for 6 men on the floor seemingly restored order for Azusa Pacific, which led 63-47 with 11:26 left in the game. However, Azusa Pacific scored just 6 points the rest of the way, a Staniland jumper and 2 free throws and a give-me Gervin lay-up with 7 seconds left.
The loss snaps Azusa Pacific’s 5-game winning streak. The Cougars still own a half-game lead over Concordia in the GSAC race but the 2 teams are tied in the loss column. Azusa Pacific is now 21-4 overall, 13-2 in the GSAC. Biola is 18-8 overall, 8-7 in the GSAC.