NAIA Tournament

NAIA Tournament semifinals feature one top seed and a rematch of a conference rivalry

Graceland wins NAIA Men’s Championship with overtime buzzer-beater

Justin Harley’s three-pointer at the buzzer gave Graceland an 83-80 victory over LSU Alexandria for the NAIA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament championship Tuesday night at Municipal Auditorium.
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Justin Harley’s three-pointer at the buzzer gave Graceland an 83-80 victory over LSU Alexandria for the NAIA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament championship Tuesday night at Municipal Auditorium.

The Frontier Conference is crashing the NAIA Division I men’s basketball tournament semifinals.

Conference rivals Carroll (Mont.) College and Lewis-Clark (Idaho) State will face each other for the fifth time this season when they meet in the second of two semifinals on Monday night at Municipal Auditorium.

The victor will face the winner of the 6 p.m. semifinal between No. 1 overall seed Georgetown (Ky.) (31-4) and William Carey (Miss.) (25-9) in the championship game on Tuesday.

Lewis-Clark (30-6) and Carroll (28-7) have split their four meetings this season with Lewis-Clark winning the last matchup 76-60 at Carroll in the conference tournament title game.

In fact, Lewis-Clark has won 15 straight, including an 80-74 victory over LSU Alexandria in the quarterfinals. Until this season, the Warriors had never advanced beyond the first round in 14 tournament appearances.

Leading scorer Dana Abe, a 6-4 senior who scored 32 points in a second-round win over William Penn (Iowa), was held to just four points against LSU-Alexandria, but four Warriors finished in double digits, including Trystan Bradley (15) and Josiah Westbrook (14).

Carroll, in a 72-56 victory over Pikeville (Ky.), broke through to the semifinal round for the first time since 2005 after exiting in the quarterfinals three times in the last four seasons. The Fighting Saints were the NAIA’s top three-point shooting team (42 percent) coming into the tournament, and they’ve been effective beyond the arc in their first three games.

The Fighting Saints are led by 6-8 senior Match Burnham, who is averaging 21 points per game in the tournament, including 34 in a second-round win over Oklahoma City, one of five times he’s scored 30 or more points in a game. Guard Matt Wyman is averaging 17.7 points in the tournament.

No team from the Frontier Conference has reached the finals of the NAIA Tournament since Rocky Mountain (Mont.) won the title in 2009.

Georgetown, the only No. 1 seed of the four brackets remaining in the tournament, defeated Arizona Christian 80-78 in the quarterfinals and will take an eight-game winning streak into the semifinals. The Tigers, making their 28th straight tournament appearance, were champions in 2013 and 1998 and runners-up in 2016, when they lost to Mid-America Christian (Okla.) on a buzzer-beater in overtime.

The Tigers are led by guard Eljay Coward, who is averaging 18 points per game in the tournament, and recorded a triple-double — 28 points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists — in a first-round win over Rocky Mountain, also had 15 points, 13 assists against LSU Shreveport.

William Carey, which overcame a 17-point deficit in the second half and beat Science and Arts (Okla.) 102-98 in overtime in the quarterfinals, will appear in the semifinals for the first time in 14 trips to the tournament. Cameron Douglas, a 6-4 wing, has scored 19 points in each of the Crusaders’ first three games.

The championship game is set for 8 p.m. Tuesday following the NAIA all-star game, which tips off at 6.

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