Eagles fly into nationals as champs

Biola men's basketball defeats Hope for GSAC throne.

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Eagles fly into nationals as champs

Johnathan Burkhardt/THE CHIMES

Johnathan Burkhardt/THE CHIMES

Marika Adamopoulos

Johnathan Burkhardt/THE CHIMES

Marika Adamopoulos

Marika Adamopoulos

Johnathan Burkhardt/THE CHIMES

Kyle Kohner, Writer

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After defeating Westmont in the GSAC semifinals on Saturday, Biola defeated Hope International for the Golden State Athletic Conference Tournament title. Now, Biola rides on a hot, 10-game winning streak into the NAIA National Championships.

Excitement & Intensity

Saturday’s GSAC semi final matchup versus the Westmont Warriors surely brought the excitement and intensity of playoff basketball.

As Dakari Archer’s 17 points resulted in a comfortable lead at halftime, it seemed the Eagles were going to cruise toward another victory over Westmont for the third time this season.

In the second half the Warriors implemented a stifling defense on Archer. After losing the lead late in the game, sophomore guard Blake Shannon Jr. would prove the key to victory. With a big three to tighten the gap, Shannon sank a clutch, mid-range jumper to take the lead with four seconds left in regulation.

Westmont forced overtime after making one of two free throws. However, Biola dominated in OT to secure the victory 75-66 and a trip to the GSAC final against Hope International.

Finishing the Game

Archer finished the game with a 25-point performance. Westmont’s defense did a solid job shutting down Archer and senior guard Terrell Funches, which forced Shannon Jr. to make eight key points down the stretch.

“I just knocked down the open shot when I got the ball,” said Shannon Jr. “Dakari and Terrell are our best scorers and we were trying to go through them but they started denying them the ball so I had to step up, which I thankfully did.”

In the two teams’ previous matchup, Biola defeated Hope at home to win the regular season GSAC Championship. Tuesday provided a different setting but an identical storyline. Biola’s aggressive, suffocating defense ended up the story again in this one.

Eagles Ahead

Throughout the game, Biola’s defense and student section shut down star senior Royal guard Garrett Neilan. Neilan, the GSAC Defensive player of the year, finished with only two points.

Biola started the game hot, but the Royals managed to tie it up toward the end of the half. Archer gave the Eagles the lead at the half on a buzzer-beater, pulling the Eagles ahead 28-26.

The second half featured back-and-forth play by both teams. The Royals tied the game several times, but Biola never relinquished the lead once in the half. The Eagles went on to defeat the Royals 60-52 for the GSAC Tournament title.

Archer finished with his second 20-point game in a row, scoring 24 points and was 6-6 at the free throw line.

Exhilarating Ride

With an exhilarating ride through the GSAC Tournament, the Eagles are flying high and leaning on a 10-game win streak. Biola automatically qualifies for Nationals, but will not know their opponent for a while.

“Our defense needs to be at our best going into Nationals,” Archer said. “So improving our defense and paying attention to the little details [is what] matter the most.”