There’s little question Villanova’s buzzer-beating victory over North Carolina last April was one of the most exciting finishes in NCAA Tournament history.
But last year’s NAIA championship game may have been even better.
Georgetown (Ky.) College appeared to seize its second title in four years when backup guard Trent Gilbert drilled a three-pointer from the corner, giving the Tigers a one-point lead with 4 seconds left in overtime.
That’s when Mid-America (Okla.) Christian’s Malcolm Mann went all Tyus Edney with a mad dash up court and dropped in a floater with 0.1 of a second remaining for a 100-99 victory and the championship.
The finish was not unusual for a title game in the NAIA Tournament, which tips off its 80th Division I men’s championship on Wednesday at Municipal Auditorium. Here is a look at the five most-memorable championship games since the tournament returned to Kansas City in 2002.
2016: Mid-America Christian 100, Georgetown 99, OT
The ball rolled around the edge of the rim, dangled above the twine and finally dropped through.
After an agonizing few seconds of analyzing television replays, the referees pumped their arms, signaling a last-second shot by Mid-America Christian’s Mann counted. By about a 0.1 of a second.
Mid-America Christian, in just its second trip to the NAIA Tournament, had shocked top-seeded Georgetown in overtime for the title.
“If I didn’t see anyone open with 2 seconds, I was going to take it myself,” Mann said. “I saw 2 seconds on the clock, lost the ball for a little bit, but for the grace of God, it went in.”
2006: Texas Wesleyan 67, Oklahoma City 65
Texas Wesleyan guard Ben Hunt grabbed a rebound of a missed free throw, drove down court, and in front of three defenders, drained a 25-foot three-pointer with 0.2 seconds left in regulation, giving the unseeded Rams a stunning victory.
Oklahoma City’s Rory Green had just given the Stars a 65-64 lead with a free throw with 6.8 seconds left in regulation but missed his second attempt. The ball bounced out to Hunt, who hit the shot of his life.
“I wanted the ball at the end of the game,” said Hunt, a senior from Australia who finished with 34 points — including seven of 11 from three-point range — eight rebounds and three assists. “I was in a flow the whole game, I had enough time to bring the ball down the floor and let it go.”
2010: Oklahoma Baptist 84, Azusa Pacific (Calif.) 83
The horn sounded, the confetti fell from the upper deck, and Oklahoma Baptist began its celebration. But hold everything.
Not until a replay of the game’s pulsating final milliseconds was complete were the Bison assured of the victory.
A put-back by Azusa’s Marshall Johnson settled through the net just after the red lights on the backboard were illuminated. The referees sent the teams to their benches while 5,353 fans held their collective breath as the replay was shown on the video boards in each end zone.
That gave Oklahoma Baptist its first national championship since 1966. And it produced more heartbreak for Azusa Pacific, which lost its second NAIA tournament final and has made 15 straight tournament appearances without a championship.
2012: Concordia (Calif.) 72, Oklahoma Baptist 69
Concordia fell behind 16-1 in the first five minutes of the game but stormed back with a swarming defense and balanced attack featuring four players in double figures.
Concordia’s first championship since 2003 wasn’t assured until the final seconds, when NAIA Player of the Year Emmanuel Wilson’s three-point attempt was partially blocked by the Eagles’ Austin Simon with 9.1 seconds left.
Oklahoma Baptist got the rebound and called a timeout, but another three-point shot glanced off the rim at the buzzer.
2011: Pikeville (Ky.) 83, Mountain State (W.Va.) 76, OT
Pikeville’s Quincy Hankins-Cole tied the game at 68-68 with two free throws with 28 seconds left in regulation, and when the Cougars’ Tay Spann missed a short runner in the lane, the game went to overtime.
The Bears’ mop-haired Trevor Setty took it from there. Setty tied a career high with 32 points and grabbed 17 rebounds as Pikeville completed an improbable run to their first national championship and became the first unseeded team in NAIA history to defeat five seeded teams in the tournament, including No 3 Mountain State.
Setty, a slender 6-foot-9 forward, hit seven three-pointers for Pikeville, and a floater by Justin Hicks gave the Bears the lead for good at the 2:50 mark of overtime.