MidAmerica Nazarene punched its ticket on Saturday night to the Final Four of the NAIA men’s basketball tournament.
Junior Jonas Page drilled a three-pointer for MidAmerica Nazarene to start the game on Saturday, and that signaled trouble for Our Lady of the Lake (Texas) in the quarterfinals at Municipal Auditorium.
The Pioneers were off to the races, quickly building a 16-point advantage, taking a 15-point halftime lead and coming away with a 95-82 victory.
“It was phenomenal,” said MidAmerica sophomore Gabriel Jordan, who finished with 14 points. “I was telling the guys we got off to a good start but keep on pushing and getting stops and playing hard.”
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From the time MidAmerica, a No. 3 seed, held a 22-6 lead, it could start thinking about facing overall No. 1 seed Georgetown (Ky.), 31-8, at 8 p.m. Monday in the semifinals.
In the other semifinal game, Mid-America Christian (Okla.), 26-9, will face Campbellsville (Ky.), 25-10, at 6 p.m. Monday.
It is the second time in the last three years that the Pioneers have reached the semifinals. In 2014, MidAmerica lost 76-72 to Emmanuel (Ga.) in the semis.
“It is a big deal for us to come this far,” said junior Justin Randall. “We have a lot of guys on this year’s team that didn’t get to experience the tournament last year. A couple of us have been here before, and we are very excited, but we don’t want to be satisfied.”
Despite the easy victory, there were a few moments of drama for MidAmerica, which improved to 28-8. After the Pioneers used their fast break offense for the huge early lead, Our Lady of the Lake, found its stride. Late in the first half, the Saints closed to 32-27.
Well, the five-point lead just meant it was time for the Pioneers to take it out of cruise control and get rolling again. A 9-0 run by MidAmerica started with a basket from Randall followed by a three-pointer from Page. Page finished with 24 points, and Randall added 22.
A few minutes later, Page hit his third three-pointer, making it 44-29. Page concluded the first half with his fourth three-pointer, sending MidAmerica into halftime comfortably ahead 51-36.
Early in the second half, the Saints showed they still had some fight left in them. They closed to 54-45 with 14 minutes, 20 seconds left in the game.
Undaunted by the Saints’ push, MidAmerica kicked it back into high gear and went on a 28-6 run in just 4 minutes to build a 72-51 lead with 10:21 left.
“The key was our rebounding, and we made sure we didn’t have turnovers,” Jordan said.
Engineering the high-octane offense were Jordan and senior point guard Nick Syrie. They looked to push the ball up court at every opportunity.
“I have complete faith in Nick and all those guys,” Randall said. “They handle the ball well enough to get the ball down to us.”
Other men’s games
▪ No. 4 seed Mid-America Christian (Okla.) advanced to the semifinals with a a 77-73 win over No. 6 seed Cumberlands (Ky.). The Evangels’ Devonse Reed scored five straight points that broke a late 64-64 tie. He finished with 17 points.
▪ Hagen Tyler made five of eight three-pointers and finished with 21 points as sixth-seeded Campbellsville, (Ky.) advanced with a 83-67 victory over fifth-seeded Carroll (Mont.). Campbellsville will face Mid-America Christian in the semifinals on Monday.
▪ Top seed Georgetown (Ky.) beat No. 3 seed William Penn (Iowa) 99-80. Tony Kimbro had 23 points and nine rebounds for Georgetown. Noah Cottrill added 26 points.
▪ Trae Bergh of Dakota Wesleyan (S.D.) won the three-point shooting contest on Saturday, topping Clayton Harreld of Briar Cliff (Iowa) 21-13 in the final round. Richard McCalop of Science & Arts (Okla.) won the dunk contest with a perfect score of 100 points in the final round.
Three teams from the Heart of America Athletic conference advanced to the NAIA’s Fab Four with quarterfinals victories on Saturday at the Silverstein Eye Centers Arena in Independence.
Benedictine and Baker will match up in the semifinals on Monday night, while MidAmerica Nazarene will take on Pikeville (Ky.) Here’s how they won Saturday:
▪ Benedictine, a No. 5 seed, knocked out No. 2 seed Campbellsville (Ky.) 45-36. Kristen Murphy, who went to Notre Dame de Sion, had her third double-double of the tournament with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Jordan Kramer paced the Ravens with 16 points. Benedictine held Campbellsville to 26.8 percent shooting for the game.
▪ Baker, seeded sixth, rolled past Lewis-Clark State (Idaho) 71-52. The Wildcats outscored the fourth-seeded Warriors in the fourth quarter 27-14. Baker made 9 of 19 three-pointers. Kelsey Larson connected on 4 of 7 threes and finished with 17 points. Jami Hodge, who is from Spring Hill, had 15 points, nine rebounds, three assists and four steals.
Baker and Benedictine split their season series, with each winning a game at home.
▪ Mid-America Nazarene, a No. 2 seed, shut down No. 5 seed Lindsey Wilson (Ky.) 60-44. The Pioneers held the Blue Raiders to 30.4 percent shooting and controlled the game from start to finish. Jasmine Webb led the Pioneers with 12 points and six rebounds.
▪ Sixth-seeded Pikeville (Ky.) did a better job of cotrolling the boards and topped Great Falls (Mont.) 75-68. Kandice Porter led Pikeville with 23 points on 8-of-11 shooting from the field.