With a white towel draped over his head, Park University senior Xavielle Brown sat on the end of his team’s bench. A spot he had hoped to avoid Wednesday became the setting for far too much of his evening — and eventually for the final moments of his college career.
Georgetown (Ky.) bounced fifth-seeded Park University from the first round of the NAIA Tournament, pulling away late for a 81-72 victory at Municipal Auditorium.
After a back-and-forth second half featured nine lead changes, Georgetown (24-7) used a late 9-0 run to seal a victory in its 26th consecutive tournament appearance.
Brown, the American Midwest Conference player of the year, was forced to watch a large chunk of it from the sideline as he battled foul trouble. He eventually fouled out with 24 points.
“A tough way to go out,” Brown said. “It’s my senior campaign; I helped bring my team here; I wanted to be out there and help my team. I hate to just sit over there.”
As Park (21-8) prepared for its second straight NAIA Tournament, coach Jason Kline had said he hoped the experience from a year earlier — even though it also came in a heartbreaking loss — would prove beneficial.
In the end, experience did win out Wednesday. But it came from fourth-seeded Georgetown, which lost the national championship game last March and holds the NAIA Tournament record with 65 all-time victories.
“We talked about (taking second) last year a few times, just to keep it fresh in our minds,” said Georgetown forward Edson Avila, who had 15 points and 12 rebounds.
Brown talked of similar motivation after Park lost a two-point game to eventual champion Mid-America Christian (Okla.) in last year’s first round. And he played like an inspired man in the opening half, scoring 10 of his team’s initial 13 points.
But he sat the final 6-plus minutes of the first half because of two fouls and skipped a stretch of nearly 5 minutes in the second half for foul trouble.
In search of its first NAIA Tournament victory since 2010, Park still managed to expand its advantage to six points in the second half before Georgetown answered with its final run.
Park played with a slight home-court advantage, with the majority of two lower bowl sections dedicated to its fans.
“It’s a challenge and a grind all year just to get down here,” Kline said. “With the strength of our conference, it’s a grind all year. We were happy to be back, but at the same time, we expect to win.”
Life (Ga.) 71, Martin Methodist (Tenn.) 62: A pair of standout performances helped Life (Ga.) flip a four-point halftime deficit into a over Martin Methodist. Forward Dalarian Williams scored 31 points and pulled down nine rebounds, and Jonathan Beausejour posted a double-double with 15 points and 17 rebounds.
SAGU (Texas) 81, Talladega (Ala.) 75: Four players were in double figures for Southwestern Assemblies of God University, which trailed by two at halftime before pulling away for a win.
Point guard Keyunta Watkins, who stands only 5-feet-8, led all scorers with 25 points, though he needed 22 shots to get there.
Dillard (La.) 86, Oklahoma City 65: Dillard dominated the paint and pulled away for a victory against Oklahoma City.
Forward Demetric Austin had 31 points and 10 rebounds, and fellow forward Jalen McGaughy added 20 points and nine rebounds. They combined to shoot 19 of 29 from the floor.
Hope International (Calif.) 61, Wiley (Texas) 59: After building a double-digit advantage before halftime, Hope International hung on for a win against Wiley.
Hope’s Josh Smith came off the bench to score 18 points and added nine rebounds.
Carroll (Mont.) 82, Mount Mercy (Iowa) 69: Carroll guard Zach Taylor filled the stat sheet in a victory over Mount Mercy. He scored a game-high 21 points and added nine assists, five rebounds, two blocks and two steals.
William Penn (Iowa) 100, Loyola (La.) 78: Torren Jones scored 24 points and grabbed 21 rebounds, and Charles Knowles added 23 in William Penn’s win over Loyola.
Langston (Okla.) 78, Biola (Calif.) 76: Michael Harris’ 22 points led Langston in its victory over Biola. Terrell Jones chipped in 20 points for the Lions.