As his men's basketball team celebrated at mid-court on Monday, Cal Maritime head coach Bryan Rooney ran over to the Keelhaulers' student section and embraced the crowd. He then encouraged the students to meet the players and join the party. It was a rare show of emotion from Rooney, whose team endured a 45-minute slugfest with La Sierra of Riverside. The Keelhaulers held on in overtime 90-86 for their fifth straight California Pacific Conference tournament championship. They will head to the 25th annual NAIA Division II National Championships on March 9. This one was not easy. Asked if this was the most difficult title game, Rooney paused and said, "Definitely. Give La Sierra credit. Every time we stretched it out to seven or nine points, they hit big shot after big shot and numerous guys did it. We had to earn it. This is what a championship game should be." The Keelhaulers (22-9) can thank an explosive performance from junior forward Daniel Radford (6'4''-G), who scored 21 of his game-high 31 points after intermission. That included five points in overtime. " (In overtime), we just tried to play team defense," Radford said. "We had to help. La Sierra was getting a lot of drives and they were making a lot of their 3-point shots so we had to play solid defense." In overtime, the Golden Eagles (9-19) had two of their players - Gerald Williams (6'3''-G) and Andre Marquez (6'3''-G-92) - foul out. Marquez had 21 points and Williams had 16 points. Cal Maritime forward Zach Davis (6'6''-F) had a big game as well with 12 points, including two big buckets early in the extra period. Davis (eight boards) had to work for his points for much of the night against an athletic La Sierra team. " (La Sierra) came out wanting to win this game," Davis said. "Last time out, we put it to them. This time, they weren't going to let that happen." The Keelhaulers had a chance to win the game in regulation, but Cal Maritime guard Roman Delgado (6'1''-G)'s twisting shot in the lane fell short. La Sierra rebounded, but then stepped out of bounds, forcing overtime. Delgado finished with 12 points. The first half was nip and tuck but the Keelhaulers used a 13-4 run in the last 10 minutes before halftime to grab a 28-20 lead with 5:25 left. Radford hit a 3-pointer to ignite the spurt and a layup from Radford after a baseball pass from Hunter Johnson (6'5''-G/F) followed. The Golden Eagles did not go away easily. A four-point play from Kyle Hamilton (6'3''-F) (17 points) started an 18-12 run that got La Sierra within 40-38 at halftime. Reynaldo Solorzano (6'4''-F) hit the final shot of the half to give his team momentum heading into the locker room. In the second half, the Keelhaulers led by nine points at 58-49 after a shot by Johnson with 10 minutes left and even by seven at 73-66 with 3:55 left after a floater from Delgado. But the Golden Eagles outscored them 12-6 in the final minutes. Three times, La Sierra tied the game after Cal Maritime had gone ahead, including the final time at 78-78 after a bucket from Williams. Rooney noted that with the Golden Eagles being so good offensively, his team had to respond in a multitude of ways. "They have three of the better guards that we've seen in Williams, Marquez and Hamilton," Rooney said. "Big shot after big shot. We pride ourselves on defense. Tonight, our offense had to bail us out." The Eagles, however, only grabbed one lead in overtime. From there, CMA iced the game from the line, hitting six of eight. Cal Maritime will await the NAIA selection show at 4 p.m. on Wednesday to find out its seed and opponent for the national tournament. The NAIA championships are March 9-15 in Missouri. Kameron Hoyt (6'1''-G), the Cal-Pac's Defensive Player of the Year, finished with nine points and eight boards. Clayton White (5'11''-PG) added seven points and seven assists. "This is so special," Davis said. "Words cannot explain how special this feeling is. All of the hard work we put in from preseason to the season, all of the practices we put in ... this is a special moment
CalPac Tournament Final: Cal Maritime - La Sierra 90-86 CalPac Tournament Semifinals: UC-Merced - Cal Maritime 55-65 Simpson - La Sierra 81-87
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