The Vanguard University men's basketball team made history Tuesday night, capturing its first Golden State Athletic Conference Tournament title with a pulsating 90-80 win over visiting Hope International.
Senior guard Preston Wynne, the GSAC Most Valuable Player, scored 24 points, including two crowd-revving three-pointers midway through the second half, to help the GSAC champion Lions, ranked No. 9 in the NAIA, improve to 27-6.
Vanguard, which won its third GSAC regular-season title this season, advances to the NAIA Tournament for the first time since 2006.
Junior guard Chris Gorman scored 17 points, while junior Keith Mason had 14 and senior Noel Larkins scored 12 for the winners.
After Hope pulled within 51-49 with 13:06 left, Wynne traded three-pointers with Hope's Matt Green.
Wynne then followed with a three-pointer, then a 19-foot jumper to spark a 13-3 run that put the Lions in command for good.
Green, an All-GSAC player, finished with 32 for the Royals, nearly three-times his season average (11.8).
The other all-conference pick for Hope who came in averaging 12.6 points per game, senior Jeremy Kilgore, wound up with 14 points. But he was held scoreless until there was 5:40 left in the game.
"I think we had incredible toughness and resolve," Vanguard Coach Rhett Soliday said. "Tonight showed that there are two teams that were the most physical in the conference and that's us and Hope. It was an incredible matchup, but we I thought we were more physically and mentally tough."
Wynne made nine of 21 field-goal attempts to help the Lions shoot 48.2% from the field, including 54.5% after intermission.
Gorman was five for 11 from the field, while Larkins was four for four from the field, including a pair of three-pointers, and he made both his free throws.
Vanguard sank 30 of 40 from the foul line, while Hope was 18 for 21 from the stripe.
After shooting 52% in the opening half, the Royals shot 45.7% in the second half to finish at 48.3%.
Vanguard forced 16 turnovers, twice as many as it committed, and Hope won the rebound battle, 37-30.
The Lions surged to a 26-12 lead with 9:25 left in the first half, as the Royals went 6:35 without a field goal until Matt Green's three-point play sparked 9-2 run that ignited the visitors. Eventually Hope pulled to within 32-28, before Vanguard added to the margin for a 37-33 halftime lead.
It was Vanguard's second victory in three games this season against the No. 23-ranked Royals (22-10). Hope earned a 55-53 win on Feb. 22 at home, after falling at Vanguard, 72-69, in overtime in Feb. 1.
Golden State Athletic Conference Tournament final
Vanguard 90, Hope International 80
HIU –Sanford 5, Hayes 2, Green 32, Nielan 12, Kilgore 14, Andersen 9, Barnes 4, Bailey 2.
3-pt. goals – Green 4.
Fouled out – Sanford, Nielan.
Technicals – None.
VU – Mason 14, Hann 5, Wynne 24, Gorman 17, Jones 8, Larkins 12, Allmon 8, Zaragoza 2.
3-pt. goals – Gorman 2, Wynne 2, Larkins 2.
Fouled out – None.
Technicals – None.
Halftime – VU, 37-33.