Band playing, floor shaking, tears rolling down faces in the crowd.

Clapping and cheering, blue and gold confetti falling, players and the head coach, one after another, each to a roar, climbing a ladder and cutting down the net.

The sights and sounds of a Cal championship filling a sold-out Haas Pavilion, expressing an ecstasy not felt in the facility in at least 20 years and a sense of accomplishment not experienced in a half-century.

Even in the celebratory aftermath of a 62-46 win over Arizona State Saturday, giving the Golden Bears at least a share of the Pac-10 Conference title for the first time since 1960, there was at least one other gloriously vivid lasting impression.

That would be Jorge Gutierrez coming off the bench in a high-pitched frenzy, ponytail flopping at the back of his neck, swiping at passes, flicking at dribblers, putting his nose into the chest of any and every opponent.

It was Gutierrez who provided a most memorable farewell for Cal's five seniors playing their final game at Haas.

He also provided an unforgettable 63rd birthday for coach Mike Montgomery.

It was Gutierrez who on this day provided Cal with infinitely more than his ordinary statistical line (six points, two rebounds, two assists in 20 minutes) would suggest.

"He just started guarding everybody," Montgomery said of Gutierrez.

This was, of course, an exaggeration, but only by the slightest of measurements.


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"He was Jorge, just being fearless," senior forward Jamal Boykin said.

No exaggeration at all.

The Sun Devils, after taking a 30-29 lead into halftime, scored a mere 16 points in the second half. No individual had more to do with that than Gutierrez, who doesn't seem to know or care that he is a 6-foot-2 sophomore.

Cal took control by outscoring Arizona State 15-2 during a span of less than seven minutes in the second half. Gutierrez was the catalyst, throwing himself into any and every opponent he encountered, guards and forwards and centers, with equal abandon. He was an "energy guy" on a mission.

"He's a very quiet kid, unassuming, with a great sense of how to help in any way he needs to," Montgomery said. "He'll make a great play that others won't make."

Gutierrez dived for loose balls, crashed for rebounds, ran the point with surprising effectiveness, saw the floor as if he has six eyes. He galvanized the Bears and disrupted the Sun Devils. At a critical time, Gutierrez was that rarest of players, taking over the game on both ends without volume scoring.

Still, with Bears scoring leader Jerome Randle getting only seven points on 3-for-11 shooting, 12 below his average, Gutierrez responded to yet another alarm in his head. Make an impact. His only points came on a dunk that gave the Bears 44-39 lead, a layup-free throw 3-point play about a minute later and a free throw to put Cal up 53-42 with 7:35 to play.

"He went down the middle on one play," Boykin said. "I thought he was going to lay it up. He dunked it."

That Boykin's eyes lit up upon recall illustrated the effect Gutierrez was having on his teammates.

"Jorge came in and did a great job of getting to the basket or going to the line," senior forward Theo Robertson said. "Offensively, he really pushed us by being aggressive, penetrating and having some nice drop-offs for easy layups."

As Robertson and the other seniors — Randle, Christopher, Boykin and Nikola Knezevic — relived this game and the significance of it upon their nearly complete careers, there was a sense of gratitude.

The rub is that Gutierrez's epic contribution to this historical moment was pure serendipity. He would not be in Berkeley if Montgomery had not replaced Ben Braun before last season.

When athletic director Sandy Barbour made that change nearly two years ago, recruit Garrett Sim decommitted from Cal, opening up a scholarship. Montgomery saw enough of Gutierrez to offer it to the lightly recruited guard from Findlay Prep in Las Vegas.

Gutierrez's acceptance laid the groundwork for history. His numbers on Saturday didn't overwhelm; they rarely do. His profound effect, however, was captured mostly with the eye. He is a coach's dream, a teammate's fantasy and an opponent's nightmare.

On this day, with Cal chasing history, with such notable alumni as Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson and newly crowned Super Bowl winner Scott Fujita of the New Orleans Saints sitting courtside, Gutierrez was no less than the indispensable man.

Contact Monte Poole at mpoole@bayareanewsgroup.com.