7:52: Spot Vic Cegles on his cell phone, and a few weeks ago I would have been suspicious he was busy talking to a future 49ers head coaching candidate. But I doubt that’s what he was doing this time. Or was he? It happened Saturday night between Long Beach State and Cal Poly in the Big West Conference title game at the Anaheim Convention Center: 7:47: Val Rodriguez, the famous letter-to-the-editor writer and one-time Banning High soccer coach, comes up and confides to me that the 49ers are destined to win. One thing about Mr. Rodriguez, he’s never afraid to go out on the limb. 8:07: Aaron Nixon hits 3-pointer to open the scoring. 8:09: Titus Shelton, a 6-7, 240-pound forward and son of former NBA player Lonnie Shelton, drills his second basket to give the Mustangs their first lead. 8:13 Oh no. What’s going on here? Derek Stockalper sinks a 3-pointer to make it 10-7 in favor of the Mustangs. 8:17: Timeout on the floor. And, oh, do the 49ers need it, as they fall behind 13-7. The 49ers have missed 9 of their first 12 shots, while the Mustangs have hit 6 of 11. 8:24: Dawin Whitten makes it 17-11 with a couple of free throws. 8:25: From very long range, Kejuan Johnson draws the 49ers to within 19-16 with a 3 pointer. Is the tide finally turning? 8:28: Chaz Thomas, a Mike Bibby lookalike, converts a three-point play after being fouled, making an incredibly difficult layup. These Mustangs apparently aren’t going away. 8:29: The 49ers seem disoriented. Sterling Byrd is free for a dunk shot – and clangs it off the rim. 8:30: The left-handed Thomas makes a 3- pointer to make it 25-18. 8:33: 49ers miss three shots at point blank range. Nothing is going their way at this ominous juncture. 8:36: Great shot by Aaron Nixon, as he fades away and throws up a rainbow that somehow drops through to draw the 49ers within 27-23. 8:37: These Mustangs certainly aren’t playing like underdogs as Trae Clark penetrates and throws a pass out to a wide-open Tyler McGinn, who drains a 3-pointer to give the Mustangs a 30-23 lead. 8:41: Clark connects on another 3-pointer to give the Mustangs their biggest lead at 33-23 with 2:59 left until intermission. 8:43: Thunder dunk by Mark Dawson has the 49er fans finally roaring again. 8:45: Aaron Nixon’s 3-pointer has them roaring even louder as they draw to within 33-30. 8:48: Halftime. The 49ers have played about as poorly as they can, but trail by only five points, 35-30. No way they could play this poorly in the final 20 minutes, is there? 8:50: My cell phone rings, and, lo and behold, who should it be but the one-time president of Long Beach State, Dr. Robert (Fightin’ Bob) Maxson, watching the proceedings with wife Sylvia up at their home in the San Juan Islands in Washington. “The ‘Beach has Cal Poly right where they want them,” he says, confidently. 9:05: Kejuan Johnson ties it at 35 with a 3.The 49ers finally seem quite aroused. 9:07: Another 3 by Kejuan gives the 49ers their first lead at 40-39. 9:09: Bob Maxson might be right. The 49ers are on fire They’re now ahead 47-41 after a Reggie Byrd 3-pointer. 9:12: The Mustangs won’t go away. They’ve cut their margin to 49-47 as Stockalper, a 6-5 all-Big West player, connects. 9:17: Suddenly, the 49ers cool off. It’s now tied at 49 on two Stockalper free throws. 9:18: Suddenly, the Mustangs are ahead 51-49 on a Clark floater. 9:21: Timeout. 51-51. To coin an original phrase, what a barnburner! 9:24: Long Beach back up at 54-51. Naturally, it’s an Aaron Nixon 3-pointer that does it. 9:27: Steal by Kevin Houston, who throws a high pass to Mark Dawson, who dunks it for as 58-53 edge. Are the 49ers finally in command? 9:28: It appears that way. Two Houston free throws give Long Beach a 60-53 advantage. The 49ers suddenly look quicker, fresher and stronger than the fading Mustangs. 9:31: 49ers continue to pull away, 62-53, as Dawson, an active presence all over the court, scores again. 9:34: There’s 7:35 left, as Nixon converts two free throws to give the 49ers an 11-point margin, 64-53. Now I’m going out on the limb, and predict boldly that the 49ers are going to emerge victorious. 9:37: It is over, as Nixon keeps up his barrage to make it 68-55. Where is the NCAA going to send the 49ers? 9:39: The 49ers fans are going bananas. Why didn’t I bring my Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach ear plugs? It’s 72-58 with 5:14 left. 9:40: Timeout. Vic Cegles stands and cheers. But are those cheers for Larry Reynolds, whose team soon will be 24-7 and whose record the past two seasons is now 42-19? 9:46: ‘You’re not Bibby!” chants the Long Beach students mockingly as Chaz Thomas is at the free-throw line. 9:47: Houston hits a 3-pointer to make it 75-63. 9:50: The Mustangs are fouling intentionally. Will I make deadline with 2:19 left? 9:51: Nixon hits two free throws, and now has 29 for the evening. 9:54: Kejuan Johnson has angry words with Dawin Whiten when Whiten fouls him. There’s 1:27 left as Johnson hits two free throws to give the 49ers a 79-69 lead. 10:05: It’s over. The final score is 94-83 and the 49ers are in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1995 when Seth Greenberg was their coach. Larry Reynolds is their coach now, and should be for another year after this rousing 49ers season. 10:07: The students rush on to the floor in a mad dash in celebration. Doug Krikorian can be reached at email@example.com 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! 7:55: Spot the Boy Wonder, F. King Alexander, the Long Beach State president, seated next to one of his top administrators, Dr. Doug Robinson, vice president of student services. They look quite composed and relaxed. 7:58: The 49ers’ rooting section, featuring a lot of shirtless guys with painted faces, recites a chant I’ve never heard before at a sporting event. “Our band’s better … our band’s better … our band’s better,” they shriek, believing their musicians are superior to those from San Luis Obispo. 8:04: Player introductions. 8:05 What a racket by the Long Beach students. “Long Beach State! Long Beach State! Long Beach State!” they’re screaming. My ears already hurt. 8:06: Play ball, as veteran official Jim Stupin, who’s worked three Final Fours and lives in Cypress, throws the ball up. The 49ers gain possession.