Down by two points with 13.5 seconds remaining in the first round of the NAIA Division I Men’s Basketball National Championship, Park University senior guard Mylin Jordan went to the free-throw line.
Jordan missed the first one, which put the Pirates in a precarious position against Mid-America Christian University (Okla.). He made the second one, but that forced Park to foul.
Junior Devonse Reed responded to the pressure and made both free throws, giving the Evangels a three-point lead. It was just enough of a cushion for Mid-America Christian to squeeze out an 88-86 victory Wednesday afternoon at Municipal Auditorium.
“That didn’t cost us the game,” Park coach Jason Kline said of the missed free throw. “Everything in the last 2 or 3 minutes is magnified. There were a lot of things that happened during the game that we didn’t do well and they didn’t do so well. But they did enough good things to outweigh them.”
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It was unfortunate for Jordan to have a missed free throw late in the game. He came off the bench to score 19 points, including nine of 12 from the free-throw line. His relentless drives to the basket brought the Pirates back after they trailed 54-46 early in the second half.
One of Jordan’s drives completed a 10-0 run that put Park in front 56-54.
“He can get to the basket and score, and that is what we wanted to try to do,” Kline said. “He went to the basket hard a few times. We want him to get to the free-throw line.”
Mid-America Christian regained the lead at 63-61 and expanded it to 71-65 with 7:42 left. Once again, Park fought back and went ahead 78-76 on a basket by junior Xavielle Brown, who received a nice assist from junior BJ Watson.
The game remained close the last 4 minutes. Park tied the game 83-83 with 1 minute left on two free throws by Jordan. Mid-America Christian took an 85-83 lead 12 seconds later when senior Chris Runnels grabbed an offensive rebound and scored on a put-back basket.
Despite the tough loss, Kline was proud of what the Pirates accomplished this season. They finished 20-10.
“None of our players have been here,” Kline said. “It means a lot to me for the work ethic these guys put in. You want them to experience the national tournament because it is an once-in-a-lifetime event.”
Watson led Park with 21 points, and sophomore Levi Mitchell added 17.
After a slow start, both teams heated up and by the time the first half ended, Mid-America Christian went into halftime with a 42-40 lead. The half included five ties and four lead changes.
Early on, Park was the colder of the two teams and fell behind 10-5. The Pirates tied the game at 10-10 and took their first lead at 15-14 on a three-pointer by Brown.
The lead changed a couple more times before Park built its biggest lead at 28-23. Watson fueled the Pirates’ hot stretch.
Mid-America Christian regained its offensive rhythm and went on a 13-6 run for a 36-34 lead. The Evangels never trailed again in the first half.
▪ Xavier Owens made two free throws with 6.4 seconds remaining in overtime, lifting No. 6 seed Cumberlands (Ky.) to a 80-78 win over third-seeded Langston (Okla.) in Wednesday’s opening game. Owens made all eighth of his free throws and finished with 19 points.
▪ Noah Cottrill scored 28 points as top-seeded Georgetown (Ky.) eased past Wayland Baptist (Texas) 102-83.
▪ Jordan Washington scored the game-winning basket as time expired, giving No. 2-seeded Talladega (Ala.) a 63-61 win over No. 7 seed Westmont (Calif.). Nigel Jones led Talladega with 20 points and 11 rebounds.
▪ Terrell Funches scored 26 points as top-seeded Biola (Calif.) rolled past Faulkner (Ala.) 84-54.
▪ Brady Burford had 17 points as William Penn (Iowa) beat Montana Western 85-77.