SPOKANE, Wash. – Mary Hardin-Baylor took control over the final five minutes of each half and upset sixth-ranked Whitworth 71-63 in an NCAA Division III men's basketball sectional in the Whitworth Fieldhouse.
The visiting Crusaders from Belton, Texas improved to 25-5 and advance to play St. Mary's (Md.) in the sectional final (Elite Eight) next Friday in Salem, Va. The Pirates, who reached the Division III sweet 16 for the fourth year in a row and fifth time in school history, finish the season 26-4 for the second straight year.
UMHB took control at the end of each half and that led to the victory. In the first period Colton McCargar's three-pointer pulled the Pirates within 25-24 with 4:27 to go. But the Cru outscored Whitworth 8-0 the rest of the way. In the second period UMHB built a lead as large as 12 points before Whitworth rallied to take a 60-56 advantage with 4:31 to go. But the Cru outscored the Bucs 15-3 the rest of the game to pull out the win in front of 1,820 mostly-crimson and white-clad fans.
"We were just a few shots away tonight, but I couldn't be prouder of the way we fought back to get the lead," said Whitworth head coach Matt Logie.
James Allen led the Cru with a game-high 21 points, while Kitrick Bell added 14 points and seven rebounds. Thomas Orr was the third UMHB player in double figures with 12 points and seven assists. But it was Cory Meals who hit the two big shots for the Cru at the end of the game. He finished with nine points.
Colton McCargar led Whitworth in scoring for the third straight game. The junior came off of the bench for 20 points, making 8-16 shots from the field. George Valle had 17 points and Dustin McConnell scored 13 for the Pirates. Wade Gebbers dished a game-high eight assists in his final game, while Taylor Farnsworth led all players with 11 rebounds.
"To come as far as we have and to have so many different guys step up has been great to witness," Logie said. "I am really proud of this team."
Whitworth quickly jumped ahead 10-2 following three-pointers by Valle and Gebbers. But the Cru withstood the initial storm and scored 10 straight points of their own to grab their first lead on a jumper by Allen. The teams then traded leads until UMHB closed the half on its 8-0 run to take a 33-24 lead into the locker rooms. The 24 points for Whitworth tied a season-low in the first half for the Bucs.
After Whitworth got within 39-33 on McConnell's basket early in the second half, the Cru responded with a 10-4 run to take their largest lead of the game (49-37) following a pair of free throws by Meals.
But then the Pirates made their strongest surge of the game, outscoring UMHB 19-5 over the next seven minutes to open a 58-54 lead with less than six minutes to play. Valle, McCargar and McConnell all hit three-pointers in the run. Zach Payne's layup following Mack Larkin's offensive rebound gave the Bucs a 60-56 lead with 4:31 to go.
But then the late-half bug struck again for Whitworth. Allen hit two free throws and Meals drilled a three from the right wing to give his team a lead it would never again relinquish. With the Pirates trying to trap out top, Brian Todd broke free for a dunk and a three-point lead. McConnell gave Whitworth one last tie with his three-pointer with 2:23 to go, but the Pirates would not score again.
Meals scored what would become the game-winning shot with 49 seconds to play. The Cru went 6-6 from the free throw line following Whitworth missed shots in the final 20 seconds to pull away for the final margin.
UMHB hit 50% (26-52) from the field, 38% (6-16) from three-point range. The Cru outrebounded the Pirates 37-25, accounting for a 16-11 point advantage in second-chance points. Whitworth finished the game 42% (24-57) from the field, 36% (11-31) from beyond the arc.
The UMHB-St. Mary's game will take place at 2:30 pm (EDT) at the Salem Civic Center as one of four national quarterfinal games. The winner of that game will play the winner of the St. Thomas-Williams game in a semifinal on Saturday.