Holley’s legendary career comes to an end in NAIA quarterfinals

From MACU Sports Info.
Levi Convirs, Sports Information Director

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Legendary Mid-America Christian University head coach Willie Holley’s decorated coaching career has to come to an end as the No. 13-ranked Mid-America Christian University Evangels fell 78-66 to the Westmont (Calif.) College Warriors in the quarterfinals of the 2015 Buffalo Funds-NAIA Division I Men’s Basketball National Championship tonight (Mar. 21) in the historic Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City, Mo.

“When I walked off the court and knew it was the final time as a head coach, I felt a real peace about the fact that it’s been 42 years of what God had called me to do and to see what he had done in those 42 years,” said Holley, who leaves with an astounding 813 career victories that ranks second all-time in the NAIA.

“It was a very fulfilling experience, obviously a very disappointing loss for the kids but from a coach’s perspective, it felt fulfilled. Other than the loss, there were no regrets.  I won’t have to look back doing what I did and how I did it.  There are simply no regrets.”

The game started much like the previous two victories, with the Evangels getting off to a hot start and building a 14-point lead in the first half.

MACU shot 53.6 percent in the opening half and hit 5-of-10 from three-point distance.

It was a 32-18 lead when the Warriors begin to chip away and pulled within six on a 10-2 run.

An alley-oop from Semar Farris to Chris Runnels gave the Evangels some momentum and a 36-28 lead at the break.

But the second half was a different story for both squads, as the Evangels shot only 27.8 percent (10-of-36) overall and missed their first 13 three-point attempts before winding up 1-of-15 from the perimeter.

Meanwhile, the Warriors shot a red-hot 71.4 percent (15-of-21) in the second half after a 40.7 percent (11-of-27) clip in the opening period.

“To me, it was a game of two halves, the second half was probably a little different officiated game and I think we were waiting on the calls and by the time we had adjusted to the physicality the game had turned,” Holley said.

“The physicality was the difference in us being able to get to the rim. The kids played hard and gave 100% just like they had all season.  A tremendous season and to finish in the NAIA quarterfinals is a dream come true.”

The Evangels were up 40-35 when the Warriors used an 8-2 spurt to take their first lead of the game and put MACU down for the first time in the tourney.

After the Evangels answered with buckets by Farris and Jerrick Massenburge to regain the lead, the Warriors’ Cory Blau and Daniel Carlin combined to score all 12 points of a decisive 12-0 burst that gave Westmont a 55-46 lead at the 11:16 mark of the second half.

The Evangels were forced to play catchup the rest of the way and could only come within five on two occasions, with the last being on two free throws by Reggie Davis with 3:28 left.

But a foul led to two free throws for the Warriors that started a run of six straight points that pushed the lead to 11 and the Evangels never threatened the rest of the way.

Playing in his final game, Farris, the Sooner Athletic Conference Player of the Year, led the Evangels with 15 points, six rebounds and five steals. Jerrick Massenburge scored 14 points and also had six boards.  Fellow seniors Brock Hunter and Josh Smith scored 11 and 10 points, respectively.

Blau led all scorers with 25 points to pace the Warriors (24-10), while Carlin had 24 points with a game-high eight rebounds.  Gerald Karczewski also scored in double-figures with 10 points.

In addition to Farris, Hunter and Smith, the Evangels also say goodbye to solid four-year seniors Davis and Jarius Wilson.

This has truly been a historic season for the Evangels that featured the program’s first Sooner Athletic Conference regular season championship along with its inaugural trip to the NAIA National Championship Tournament.

The Evangels are expected to return seven letterwinners for next year’s squad, including starter Chris Runnels, who led the team in rebounding (5.4 rpg) and blocks (49).  Massenburge also returns after scoring 9.9 points per game along with a 36.9 percent (55-of-149) shooting clip from three-point distance.

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