ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Winning four games in five days proved to be no problem for Cal State Northridge with the formidable 1-2 punch of Channon Fluker and Tessa Boagni.
Fluker, the two-time Big West Conference Most Valuable Player, had 24 points and 17 rebounds while Boagni added 23 points and No. 5 seed Cal State Northridge upset top-seeded UC Davis 63-55 on Saturday night in the Big West Tournament championship.
The Matadors (19-15) have won five of their last six games and advance to the NCAA Tournament. This is nothing new for Cal State Northridge, which has won the conference tournament and advanced to the NCAA Tournament three times in the last five years.
“I wouldn’t say it’s difficult. My body didn’t feel like I played four games in five days,” Boagni said. I guess it was adrenalin and living in the moment. I don’t think it’s that hard. When you have a goal, nothing can get in your way, whether you play one game or four games.”
Boagni, the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, added eight rebounds and four assists. Fluker, who was four assists shy of a triple double, scored 16 of her 24 points in the second half and was a big factor defensively in the Matadors’ zone. When they switched to zone, UC Davis struggled to make shots.
The Aggies led 19-9 after the first quarter after Cal State Northridge missed 9 of its first 13 shots.
“(Fluker and Boagni) put us on their backs and shoulders,” Cal State Northridge coach Jason Flowers said. “They carried us and willed us this tournament. In the first quarter, we hit adversity and this team earlier in the year would’ve folded, we would’ve been in that locker room crying and we would’ve gone home.
These two young women are the reason we’re sitting here. These two and their teammates. All the credit goes to them.”
UC Davis led 29-24 at halftime, but Cal State Northridge went on a 9-0 run for a 37-32 advantage in the third quarter, and the Matadors led the rest of the way.
Destiny Brooks made a running jumper in the lane as the shot clock expired with 1:15 left to give the Matadors a 57-53 lead, sparking an 8-2 surge to end it.
UC Davis (25-6) won back-to-back regular season conference titles and the No. 1 seed in the Big West Tournament, but was unable to make it to the NCAA Tournament with a senior-led team both times. Morgan Bertsch scored 22 points to lead the Aggies.
“What I told my team was that I would rather be a part of Davis losing than on any other team that won,” senior forward Pele Gianotti said. “It’s a family. We really worked hard on and off the court and established these relationships. I’m just really proud to be a part of UC Davis.”
UC Davis edged UC Riverside by three points in the semifinals. The Matadors dominated Cal Poly 73-50 in the other semifinal.
HOW DO YOU CELEBRATE A CHAMPIONSHIP IN ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA?
Not by going to Disneyland. The Matadors were going to eat barbecue and have strawberry lemonades at Lucille’s Smokehouse Bar-B-Que, a chain restaurant in Orange, California.
Cal State Northridge: The Matadors have made a habit of making the NCAA Tournament no matter the seed. Coach Jason Flowers might be fielding calls for coaching vacancies soon.
UC Davis: Bertsch, a junior who has surpassed 1,000 career points, returns but the Aggies will have to replace four senior starters.
Cal State Northridge: Will play in the NCAA Tournament.
UC Davis: Will play in the WNIT by virtue of winning the Big West Conference regular season title.