As the No. 1 seed in the 2015 NAIA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship, Hope International (Calif.) knows it is going to get every team’s best shot. Montana Western definitely delivered it Friday night at Municipal Auditorium.
The Royals trailed nearly the entire first half against Montana Western and faced a seven-point deficit midway through the second half in the second-round game. And then, Hope International played like the top seed and went on a major run that gave them a double-digit lead and eventually an 82-72 victory.
“It is a good thing,” Hope International senior guard Matt Green said about being the top seed. “It gives us more energy to play and more fire. Everybody is going to come after us. When we walked in here, we felt people didn’t think we were really the No. 1 team.
“We had something to prove to ourselves. We want to be the No. 1 team. We have to keep playing like that.”
Hope International, which improved to 31-2, will face Martin Methodist (Tenn.), 30-4, in the quarterfinals at 4 p.m. Saturday. In the previous two years, Hope International lost its second-round game.
“It was nice to finally get over the hump,” Green said.
The Royals appeared to be in a bit of trouble when it trailed 56-49 with 13 minutes left in the game. Nothing suggested what was about to follow. After all, Montana Western led for all but the first two minutes in the first half and after briefly giving up the lead early in the second half, regained control and slowly moved to a seven-point advantage.
From that point on, it was all Hope International. Outside shots from Green started falling, and inside baskets from junior Tuff Barnes were going in. The Royals were making stops. Nine minutes later, Hope International held a 78-61 lead.
“We’ve been in that situation all season,” Barnes said. “We’ve been down at halftime and we come together every time.”
With 4 minutes remaining in the game, Montana Western did not have nearly enough time to overcome a 29-5 run that the Royals unleashed on it.
Barnes and Green each finished with 16 points.
“Coach (Bill Czech) said it throughout the year that when we throw it inside first and kick it out to our shooters that is when we shoot the best,” Barnes said.
The Royals weren’t doing that in the first half. and it hurt them.
Montana Western went ahead 6-4 on a three-pointer by Kris Castro and never trailed again in the first half, taking a 40-37 lead into the locker room.
One warning sign for Montana Western was it only led by three points despite shooting 56 percent from the field while holding Hope International to 42 percent.
“Anytime you don’t shoot well and the other team is on fire and you are only down a little, you know things are going to change,” Green said. “The second half they cooled down and we heated up.”
▪ DALTON STATE(GA.) 85, EVANGEL (MO.)74: Dalton State built a 21-point lead midway through the second half and cruised to victory over Evangel in the second round.
Leading the way for the Roadrunners was senior forward Ladaris Green, who scored 22 points and pulled down 12 rebounds. Senior forward Korry Tillery had a double-double for Evangel, scoring 20 points and pulling down 10 rebounds.
▪ CAL STATE SAN MARCOS 61, ARIZONA CHRISTIAN 59: Cal State junior guard Akachi Okugo made two free throws with 56 seconds left, giving it a 61-59 lead. With 20 seconds left junior Declan Daly blocked a shot, preserving the two-point lead, and the game ended with Arizona Christian missing three attempts to tie the game in final 3 seconds.
Senior Blake Nash led Cal State with 17 points and senior forward Julian Camper added 13.
▪ PIKEVILLE (KY.) 97, CONCORDIA (CALIF.) 93 OT: Trailing by one with 44 seconds remaining in overtime, Pikeville scored the last five points, all from the free-throw line, and came away with a second-round win.
Junior guard K.K. Simmons scored a game-high 28 points for Pikeville, and senior Kenny Manigault added 23. Junior forward Stephen Grosey pulled down a game-high 16 rebounds for Concordia.
▪ TALALDEGA (ALA.) 79, OUR LADY OF THE LAKE (TEXAS) 70: Talladega held a 67-49 lead with 6:40 left and no problems winning its 31st game of the season. Talladega, the No. 2 seed, trailed 4-1 in the opening minute, but once the Tornadoes took a 6-4 lead on a three-pointer by sophomore Jamarqus Jones, they never trailed again.
Senior guard Brandon Peters led Talladega with 22 points and Jones added 17.
▪ MARTIN METHODIST (TENN.) 73, CUMBERLANDS (KY.) 59: Cumberlands led by six points midway through the first half but went into enough of an offensive lull to go into halftime down 34-29. Martin Methodist controlled the second half, leading 63-49 with 5 minutes left.
Freshman Dacoby Anderson led the Martin Methodist with 18 points. Xaview Owens scored a game-high 26 points for Cumberlands.