The Cal Poly Pomona and Cal State San Bernardino men’s basketball teams will take the floor against tough foes on Monday in NCAA Division II West Regional semifinal play.
Three of the four teams left boast national rankings as the Coyotes (20-8) will face No. 4 and defending national champion Western Washington (28-2) which will have the benefit of playing on its home floor in front of a raucous crowd. No. 5 Cal Poly Pomona (28-2) will face No. 2 Seattle Pacific (26-3).
The players who score the points traditionally get the recognition. But for both the Broncos and the Coyotes, the players that could loom just as large might be the ones filling another role, that of defensive specialist.
It’s a little ironic that the players that fill that role have the same last night – for the Broncos that player is 6-2 freshman guard Barry Bell, while for the Coyotes, its 6-3 senior Johnny Bell. (No relation)
Both traditionally are given the assignment of defending the top player on the opposing team, although individual assignments are not as common in the Broncos matchup zone defense. Monday it is going to be especially difficult because the locals are tackling foe from the Great Northwest Athletic Conference known for their offense.
Johnny Bell (Moreno Valley-Valley View HS) has started 27 of 28 games, playing an average of 23.5 minutes. He’s averaging 6.6 points and 5.1 rebounds. In several games down the stretch he was the one getting the big rebounds and big buckets.
When I spoke with Coyotes coach Jeff Oliver at the end of the season I told him that one player had really caught my attention and I had learned to really appreciate the subtleties of his game.
Oliver replied, “You better say Johnny Bell.”
So his contributions are not overlooked by those in the program.
Barry Bell (Oakland McClymonds HS) has started 29 of 30 and is averaging 4.7 points and 3.4 rebounds in 28.2 minutes. He is a big part of the reason the Broncos lead the nation in defense.
“We wouldn’t be where we are without him,” Broncos coach Greg Kamansky said.