From MACU Sports Info.
Levi Convirs, Sports Information Director
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The No. 13-ranked Mid-America Christian University Evangels held off the Missouri Valley College Vikings with clutch free-throw shooting down the stretch to win 81-72 to advance to the quarterfinals of the 2015 Buffalo-Funds NAIA Division I Men’s Basketball National Championship tonight (Mar. 20) inside the historic Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City, Mo.
The Evangels, now 25-10 on the season, will await the winner of No. 5-ranked Campbellsville (Ky.) and Westmont (Calif.) tomorrow night (Mar. 21) at 6 p.m.
It was another wire-to-wire victory for the Evangels, but this one came with much more drama than last night’s win.
The Evangels hit 10-of-19 from three-point range in the first, including a perfect 5-of-5 from Brock Hunter and a three by Jerrick Massenburge capped the half to put MACU up 44-27 at the break.
“The rim got real big, it’s been a while since I had a hot game like that,” Hunter said.
MACU kept it going early in the second half and stretched the lead to 22 on a putback by Massenburge that made it 56-34 with 14:34 left.
The Vikings started to slowly chip away at that point and cut it to 15 when a basket by Kyle Hickey capped a 7-0 spurt that trimmed the lead to 56-41.
The Evangels kept Missouri Valley at bay and pushed the lead back to 18 on a score by Chris Runnels and a dunk from Yuri Hager at the 10:15 mark.
The Vikings came within 15 three more times until really making things interesting as a three by Brad Hamilton and putback from James Lane put the finishing touches on a 12-2 run that suddenly made it a five-point game at 68-63 with still 2:48 left.
Perhaps the biggest shot of the game came on the next possession when Semar Farris drove the lane and nailed a pullup jumper that stopped the run and built the lead back to 70-63.
From that point, the Evangels settled in and never let the lead dip below six the rest of the way. Jarius Wilson stepped up and made all four of his free-throw attempts and Farris made both of his attempts at the charity stripe down the stretch.
Hunter also went 3-of-4 at the line, twice giving the Evangels a nine-point lead that gave them the breathing room they needed to put it away.
“I knew this was a big stage and you got to step up and make free throws to win,” Hunter said.
The opening half featured a 10-10 gridlock that the Evangels snapped as Hunter capped a 12-2 run with a three for a double-digit lead of 22-12.
It was a 24-15 edge when Hunter really caught fire and drilled three treys to fuel a 12-3 burst for a 36-18 lead at the 5:21 mark of the first half and MACU carried a 44-27 lead into the locker room.
Hunter led all scorers with 20 points and wound up 5-of-6 from the perimeter. Farris scored 16 along with five rebounds and four assists, while Massenburge added 12 points. Reggie Davis and Josh Smith each had a team-high six rebounds for the Evangels.
Lane paced the Vikings (22-11) with 18 points and eight boards. Hamilton scored 12, with Raviel Burton chipping in with 10 points and eight rebounds.