Sailfish Earn NCCAA Region Championship with Thrilling Overtime Victory
March 9, 2010
Written By: Michael Brown, PBA Sports Information Director
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla.- A game that remained close from the tip-off until the final whistle, the Palm Beach Atlantic University men’s basketball team captured their first National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA) South Region Championship in five seasons on Tuesday evening at the Rubin Arena with a 73-71 overtime win over #2-seeded North Greenville University.
The Sailfish have now won three of their last four ballgames as they swept through the NCCAA South Regional with victories over #1-seed Emmanuel College on Monday evening while coming back on Tuesday to knock off #2-seed North Greenville.
Junior Hunter Ross came through with a career night for the Fish as he totaled a career-high 26 points in the victory while seldom-used freshman Matthew Gierl (pronounced Gear-o) became a hero with his late work from behind the three-point line to force the overtime period.
In what was not a particularly strong shooting night for the Sailfish as they managed just a 39.3% (24-61) shooting mark, the team needed a strong night from swingman Ross while getting contributions from up and down the roster. They also were forced to deal with the monster inside game of NGU’s Paul Harrison who totaled 34 points and 15 rebounds on 12-of-18 shooting from the field.
In a game that saw nine ties and ten lead changes, the Sailfish looked as if they might watch NGU hoist the Regional Championship banner with the final minutes of regulation ticking down.
With 2:38 remaining in the second-half, Harrison connected on a tough layup underneath that gave the Crusaders a 62-58 lead. However, the Fish stormed back into the lead on back to three-pointers from Gierl who finished 3-of-6 from beyond the arc as PBA went back on top 64-62 with 1:48 remaining.
After a pair of clutch Harrison free-throws tied the contest with under a minute left, both teams would have their opportunities for a last second shot. Up first came the Sailfish who failed on a layup attempt by Ross and a follow up tip-in attempt by David Gabriel as NGU guard Zack Shields pulled down the rebound and wisely called timeout with 2.3 seconds remaining.
After a failed in-bound attempt cut off a few more tenths of a second to get down to under two seconds remaining with the ball at midcourt, NGU sharpshooter Luke Lattimer attempted a desperation mid-court shot that came up well short as the two teams headed into overtime.
A jumper by Jonathan Lawrence placed PBA in front on the opening possession of overtime only to see Lattimer fire back with a three-pointer to move ahead 67-66 with 3:24 remaining. Harrison would add another basket the next possession for NGU as they went up 69-66 with 2:21 left on the clock.
Gabriel would connect on one-of-two free throws to trim the Crusader lead to just two points with under two minutes to play. A big steal by Ross then culminated in the North Palm Beach native going to the free-throw line on the other end as he tied the game at 69-69 with 1:39 remaining.
After another NGU turnover, Lawrence would step up big again and drain a jump shot as time came under a minute into the overtime period. Ross closed out the game with two more free-throws before Harrison added in a layup that was good with only .5 seconds remaining on the clock. PBA heaved the ball deep and let time expire as the Sailfish fans on hand cheered loudly for the program’s first NCCAA regional championship under third-year head coach Terry Primm.
Lawrence was the only other Sailfish player besides Ross to finish in double-figures as he managed 15 points while dishing out four assists and grabbing three rebounds. Gierl tied his career-high set a few weeks ago with nine points while Gabriel managed six points and a team-high eight rebounds.
For the Crusaders, they were led by Harrison’s 34 points followed by 17 from Lattimer and 11 points off the bench from Shields. The team finished 49% from the field and did not miss a shot in overtime (3-3) however it was the Sailfish who would prevail on this night.
NGU committed 18 turnovers while PBA had just eight miscues while NGU won the rebounding battle 40-31.
The NCCAA South Region championship officially nets PBA a bid to the 2010 NCCAA National Championships to be held March 18-20 on the campus of Oakland City University in Oakland City, Indiana.
NGU finishes their season with a 16-12 mark, tied for the most wins in school history as a four-year institution.