- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 15, 2009

ANAHEIM, CALIF. (AP) - Rodrique Mels had 23 points, seven rebounds and three steals to lead Cal State Northridge to a 71-66 overtime victory over Pacific for the Big West Conference tournament championship Saturday night.

Mark Hill tied his career high with 15 points and added six assists and five rebounds for the top-seeded Matadors (17-13), who won their first Big West tournament title and qualified for the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2001, when they won the Big Sky tournament.

Northridge’s Tremaine Townsend grabbed 12 rebounds, while Mels was selected the tournament’s most valuable player.

Bryan LeDuc scored a career-best 24 points for the third-seeded Tigers (19-12), whose five-game winning streak ended. Michael Kirby added 16 points and Joe Ford grabbed nine rebounds.

With the score tied at 64 in overtime, Rob Haynes made a bank shot with 3:09 left and Mels hit a 3-pointer to give Northridge a 69-64 lead with 1:29 remaining.

Kirby responded with a driving layin with 47.3 seconds left, but missed a 3-pointer that would have tied it with 22 seconds to go. Hill then increased the margin to five points by making two free throws with 14.8 seconds left.

Northridge built an 18-point lead in the first 10 minutes, but Kirby made two free throws to force a 61-61 tie with 5.4 seconds left in regulation.

The victory is a bright spot in a tumultuous season for Northridge.

In January, two players _ including leading scorer Deon Tresvant _ and the head coach’s son were arrested on suspicion of stealing $6,600 from an electronics store. Both players were suspended.

In February, starting point guard Josh Jenkins suffered internal injuries in a car accident that ended his season. Jenkins led the conference in assists at the time.

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