SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. -- The month of March is nothing more than surviving and advancing for teams fortunate to be playing in the NCAA tournament.
And that's how it went down for top-seed Cal State San Bernardino, who edged past upstart and Chaminade by the slimmest of margins, winning 79-78 in the final game of the NCAA West Regional tournament.
Senior All-CCAA guard Kirby Gardner led the way with a game-high 24 points with 10 rebounds, and fellow senior forward Joshua Gouch played in dominant fashion on both ends of the court with 13 points, 11 rebounds (eight offensive) as the Coyotes pulled away from the Silverswords, then held on for dear life to advance.
CSUSB (24-4 overall) advances to the regional semifinals for the second consecutive year when it plays fellow CCAA-member Chico State.
Down by 10 points in the early part of the second half, CSUSB slowly gained its way back into the game and grabbed its first lead of the night on a Gouch three-point play on an assist by CCAA Player of the Year Lacy Haddock with 10:19 left – 56-55.
The Coyotes stayed in control, led by as many as 10 with 6:05 left, only to have Chaminade climb back.
The Silverswords cut the lead to four on a three-point play from Kuany Kuany, who then stole the ball from Haddock and hit the layup to bring Chaminade to within two with 32 seconds left.
The Coyotes worked to inbound the ball on a long baseball pass to Andrew Young, but the pass was too much to handle and the ball went out of bounds with 25 seconds left.
The Silverswords worked the ball with All-Region guard Lee Bailey, but the sophomore from Detroit lost control of the ball driving toward the paint and the Coyotes had the ball with 8.5 seconds left.
CSUSB got the ball in the paint and Young was fouled with 1.3 seconds left.
He hit both shot to give CSUSB a 79-75 lead and it turned out the Coyotes needed those Young free throws because Chaminade's Kuany hit a circus 3-pointer from 65-feet out that the ripped the net for the final score.
Gardner secured his first double-double of the season and reached 20 points for the fifth time.
Young came back after missing the past five games with an injured foot. He scored 12 points with eight rebounds. Haddock had 12 points.
Kuany led Chaminade (19-13) with 19 points.