Star power


POSTED: Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The comfort zone is there, but the Brigham Young-Hawaii Seasiders refuse to get comfortable.

One more win at home, and third-ranked BYUH advances to the NCAA Division II Elite Eight in Springfield, Mass., next week.

But in tomorrow night's West regional final (the round of 16) at the Cannon Activities Center in Laie, a talented team in Cal Poly Pomona stands between the Seasiders and the farthest push they've achieved in the NCAA postseason.

BYUH coach Ken Wagner compares the situation favorably to last year, when the Seasiders upset two opponents to advance to the West final in Alaska. Host Alaska-Anchorage then sent the Seasiders packing.

After a banner year in 2008-09, the BYUH earned the West's top seed and has similarly feasted on teams at the raucous CAC, where it is unbeaten.

“;Well, for one thing we're at home — last year we were in Alaska,”; Wagner said with a laugh. “;There's a lot higher comfort zone when you're playing at home. The fans are all going to be cheering for you. Last year we had some excellent senior leadership ... but this year with Trenson (Akana), Nate (Sims) and Jermaine (Odjegba), they've done a tremendous job all year being our team leaders. I think with the experience that we have — we're going to be playing a great team — (we'll) have to come ready to play.”;

BYUH (27-1) has won 24 straight after its victories over California Collegiate Athletic Association teams Humboldt State and Cal State Dominguez Hills in the first two rounds of the tournament. Now a third CCAA opponent awaits the third-seeded — CPP Broncos (22-7) — to decide who plays the Central region champ March 25.

The first two postseason opponents ran with the up-and-down Seasiders, who average 92 points per game, whenever they could. But the Broncos (65.3 ppg scored, 57.4 allowed) prefer a much more deliberate style of play, and the game will likely come down to which team better exerts its style on the other.

“;They're going to try to impose their fast-paced game on us, but we can play fast. We scored 80 points in both games in the subregionals,”; said CPP coach Greg Kamansky, whose team won the West regional the last time BYUH hosted, in 2003. “;We're obviously a lot more defensive-minded type of team. It's not like we're going to try to slow it down — we're going to take what we can get.”;

Wagner thinks his versatile star forward, Lucas Alves (19.7 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 53 percent shooting) is poised to have a big game against the Broncos' style. Guards J.R. Buensuceso and Akana could also explode from 3-point range (combined 48 percent shooting from deep) if CPP can't track them down in the open court.

The Broncos have a considerable threat of their own in 6-foot-5 senior guard Larry Gordon; the Pomona native averages 14.3 ppg on 50.2 percent shooting. Two other threats from deep, Walter Thompson and Austin Swift (combined 52 3-pointers made) average double figures.

“;They have a player, Gordon, who's a very good player, All-American quality,”; Wagner said. “;We need to shut him down, and I think we're capable of doing that.”;

Kaimuki graduate Jimmy Miyasaka, a senior reserve guard for the Broncos, has shot 36.8 percent on 3-pointers this season and averaged 2.4 points in 9 minutes per game entering the NCAA II tournament.