Monty Wilson practiced the shot over and over again during Georgetown (Ky.) College’s late-night practice session at St. Teresa’s.
And sure, enough, as time ran down on Monday night, the extra work paid off as Wilson swished a three-pointer from the top of the circle with 0.4 left that gave the 13th-seeded Tigers a dramatic 90-88 victory over LSU Shreveport in the semifinals of the NAIA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament at Municipal Auditorium.
Georgetown’s uphill victory thrust the Tigers into Tuesday’s 7:30 championship game against SAGU, an 80-64 winner over Lindsey Wilson.
LSU Shreveport’s Tevin Hall had just given the unseeded Pilots an 88-87 lead by making two free throws with 8.6 seconds to play.
Georgetown, 27-8, set up a shot for Wilson, who hit the game-winner with a similar shot in the Tigers’ 86-82 quarterfinals win over Culver-Stockton.
“I felt it from last night, I knew if I got the ball, it would go in,” said Wilson, one of four Tigers who spent extra time shooting at St. Teresa’s Academy between 9:30 and 10:30 on Sunday night, of his dramatic shot that set off a mob scene by the Tigers on the floor and sending the crowd of 4,528 into a frenzy.
“There was pressure on me,” said Wilson, who finished with 32 points on 12 of 20 shooting. “I told Deondre (McWhorter), I was going to come off of him, and catch and shoot. When it left my hand, it felt good, just like last night.”
LSU Shreveport led 82-73 with 5:23 to play after Brandon Davis made two free throws for the last of his 31 points. But the Tigers would go on a 10-0 run and took an 83-82 lead on a free throw by Garel Craig with 2:25 to play. Craig’s bank shot with 34 seconds gave Georgetown an 87-86 lead before Hall was fouled going to the basket, and his two free throws set the stage for Wilson’s heroics.
Though the buzzer had sounded, the shot-clock still read 0.4 after Wilson’s shot, giving LSU Shreveport a last gasp. But guard Jake Greene’s half-court shot was off the mark, ending the Pilots’ season at 27-7.
“Monty Wilson is a gamer,” said Georgetown coach Chris Briggs. “He wants it in the crunch time. I didn’t know what they were going to do. I didn’t know what they (LSU) were going to do. I didn’t know if they were going to sit back in the zone … I figured they’d bring somebody up the court, so I told ’em to get a ball screen up there and let Garel try to go, and Monty ended up with it up in his hands and made something out of nothing and banged that shot.
“But when you’re in the gym an hour and a half in the gym the night before the game, putting up a whole bunch of extra shots, that pays off. These kids earned that … big-time effort.”
Craig and Allan Thomas scored 17 points each for the Tigers, while forward Vic Moses added 12 points with 10 rebounds.
LSU Shreveport’s Davis had 13 rebounds to go with his 31 points, giving him a double-double in all four of the Pilots’ tournament games. Guard Rodney Milum added 21 for the Pilots.
A win on Tuesday would give Georgetown its second NAIA title and first since 1994, and it would give the Tigers 59 all-time tournament wins, tying Oklahoma Baptist for the most by one school.