March 27, 2010

Brian Lester, Special to

SRINGFIELD, Mass. - So often this season, Cal Poly has had to deal with playing in hostile environments. The Broncos were in another one Saturday afternoon in the NCAA Division II national championship game.

The Indiana (Pa.) fans made up most of the crowd here at the MassMutual Center, and yet the Broncos were unfazed by the loud cheering as they battled the No. 2-ranked Crimson Hawks.

Being able to keep their composure paid off for the Broncos, who took down IUP, 65-53, to secure the program's first ever national championship.

"We win games because we keep our composure," Cal Poly senior guard Austin Swift said. "We have had a lot of games come down to the last five minutes, and so we are used to being in tough situations. IUP had a lot more fans here than we did, but we kept our composure and came out with the victory."

Senior guard Dahir Nasser said the team is used to playing with an "us against the world" mentality.

"We love being in that position," Nasser said. "Everybody on our team battles, in practice and in games. We know we have each other's backs, and that is a great feeling."

Cal Poly coach Greg Kamansky said that because Swift and Nasser provide a veteran presence, it allows the team to handle the pressure of playing in big games.

"Austin and Dahir handle the ball 98 percent of the time. Our team takes their lead from them," Kamansky said. "It's easier to play our style of basketball when we know the guy handling the ball has confidence."

The second-ranked Crimson Hawks (33-3) were unsuccessful in rattling the Broncos (28-6) because they couldn't get into a rhythm on offense or defend Cal Poly's efficient offensive attack.

"We tried to get shots to fall, but they weren't dropping like they usually do," IUP senior guard Thomas Young said. "They made things tough on us. But we can still hold our head up high. We don't consider ourselves losers because we lost the game. We accomplished a lot this year."

All-Tournament Team: Swift was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Elite Eight. Nasser made the all tourney team as well. IUP's Darryl Webb and St. Cloud State's Taylor Witt and Matt Schneck filled out the team.

Great Shooters: Cal Poly shot over 50 percent in each game of the Elite Eight, including a 53.2 percent shooting performance against the Crimson Hawks in the national final.

The Broncos are so tough defensively, allowing roughly 56 points per outing, that their offensive success is often overlooked.

"You have to step up your level of play at this time of the year," Kamansky said. "Everyone talks about our defense, but our offense has really been clicking during the tournament. We don't turn the ball over a lot and we take good shots. That is just as important as playing good defense."

NFL Connection: Cal Poly sophomore forward/center Dwayne Fells has an older brother who plays in the NFL. Daniel Fells just completed his fourth season with the St. Louis Rams. He caught 21 passes for 273 yards and 3 touchdowns. The younger Fells scored 23 points and 13 rebounds in three games here.

Make Room For Another: Cal Poly's 65-53 victory in the national championship game marked the 54th time a team has been crowned the champion of D II basketball. The Broncos are the 36th different team to win a championship.