Eagles fly to new heights in 2016
Despite being knocked out early in the second round of the NAIA National Championship tournament, the men’s basketball team concludes a highly successful season, besting last year’s team in almost every major statistical category while featuring the best defense in the NAIA.
An abrupt end
On March 18, the number one seed Eagles’ season came to an end sooner than most expected after being defeated 88-80 by the number four seed Mid-America Christian Evangels. The upset came to much surprise given the Eagles’ recent dominant stretch.
The Eagles fell behind early and trailed by nearly 20 points at the half.
The Eagles came away fighting in the second half, methodically cutting down the Evangels’ lead down to make it a one possession game 60-62. Unfortunately the three ball would continue to haunt the Eagles down the stretch.
The Evangels’ offensive onslaught proved too much for the Eagles as they fell to M.A. Christian.
The Eagles still managed to have four players in double digit scoring including junior guard Dakari Archer’s 22 points — his fourth straight game scoring more than 20 points.
Archer was the focal point of one of the best seasons under Coach Dave Holmquist. Archer started every one of the Eagles’ 34 games and averaged 16.5 points per game, converted 46 percent of his shots and had 58 steals while winning the Golden State Athletic Conference player of the year. As a dynamic point guard, Archer facilitated much of the success of the Eagles offense, including fellow senior guard Terrell Funches.
Funches broke out in his first and last year as an Eagle and made it an exciting one. Transferring from Texas A&M International University, Funches was penciled in as Archer’s backcourt partner and provided Biola with a shot of defensive energy and offensive strategy. Funches averaged 15.6 points per game. The gritty yet finesse senior put the team on his back in critical moments this year, including the GSAC regular season and GSAC Championship games versus the Hope International Royals.
The Eagles averaged 39 rebounds per game, 8.4 per game more than their opponent. An 8.4 average rebounding margin is an improvement, considering the Eagles’ rebounding margin per game was 3.3 last year. Thus, the Eagles finished number one in the nation in defense allowing 60 points per game.
The frontcourt played admirably all year, as junior forward Jeff Gonzalez and senior wing Caelan Tiongson paving the way for a dominant number one Eagle defense, especially in the paint. Gonzalez nearly averaged a double-double per game, compiling 9.3 points per game and grabbing 7.3 boards per game.
Tiongson proved a boost of energy coming off the bench. The versatile senior contributed 7.9 points, and 5.3 rebounds per game. However, his relentless playing style helped him come away with 22 steals and 24 blocks on the year.
Nevertheless, this phenomenal year came from a team effort. Biola’s scoring margin increased from 1.5 to an astonishing 11.2 points per game. With all facets of the game improved from last year, Biola increased its previous 16-15 record to 30-4 and was 16-0 at home this season.
The end of a journey
This season also marked the end of a journey for two talented seniors, Tiongson and Funches, who provided fans with a memorable season in a year full of memories.
“I've never been part of a group that was so tight-knit and willing to sacrifice for one another,” Tiongson said. “I will miss being able to represent Biola as a basketball player and being able to reflect Christ and the university every time you're on the court.”
Injection of youth
With old faces leaving, young Eagles will have opportunities to bare fruit.
“Freshman Trevor Treinen and freshman guard and forward Levi Auble are a couple guys to keep an eye on next year,” Tiongson said. “These are two of the most talented freshmen I have ever seen, who really bought into our team this year, and their joyful attitudes and passion for basketball will take them far in terms of success as athletes.”
With the exciting influx of talent coming to the forefront of next year's Eagle team, Biola can enjoy a successful season this year and look toward even greater times in the future.