With the victory, Azusa Pacific advances to Tuesday’s championship game where it will meet No. 9-ranked Concordia, which defeated Westmont, 81-70, in tonight’s other semifinal game.
With the Cougars clinging to a 45-41 lead with just over 7 minutes to play, Michel banged a 3-pointer from the right wing and then followed with a conventional 3-point play to give the Cougars a quick 6 points, allowing them to take a commanding 51-41 lead.
“I knocked down the three and then happened to be in the right place for the bucket and the foul,” said Michel. “Ryan (Dillon) made a great pass to me for the shot.”
Azusa Pacific’s defense did the rest, holding Point Loma Nazarene to just 8 points over the final 10 minutes of the game. Michel’s contribution wasn't limited to just the offensive end either. He held the Crusaders’ top scorer, Andrew Lasker to just 3-for-11 shooting and 8 points, half of his season average.
GSAC Player of the year Caleb Gervin led Azusa Pacific with 15 points. Michel finished with 14 points, and his only points of the second half came during those 2 game-clinching possessions. Jeff Staniland added 12 points.
“I wanted to be an offensive threat tonight,” said Michel, who had just 6 points in last Monday’s regular-season-ending victory over Point Loma Nazarene. “I wasn’t necessarily looking to score tonight, I just wanted to be a threat and take pressure of Caleb and Jeff.”
Trenton Berglund, who had 30 points in a loss to Azusa Pacific last Monday, again paced Point Loma with a game-high 21 points.
Azusa Pacific opened the game with a 9-0 run and pushed its lead to 28-18 following a Jeff Staniland lay-up. However, the Cougars didn’t score again, missing its final 7 shots of the half and committing 5 turnovers in the process. Point Loma took advantage and closed the final 7:35 of the half with a 13-0 run to assume a 31-28 lead into the locker room at halftime.
“We just lost all focus and intensity,” said Azusa Pacific coach Bill Odell, “and they took it to us. We gave up a ton of offensive rebounds, and we you play good defense for 30 seconds and give up offensive rebounds, you get tired.”
With the victory, Azusa Pacific improves to 27-5 overall. Point Loma falls to 22-11.