Salem, Va. – The University of Mary Hardin-Baylor Crusaders made the most of their first trip to the NCAA Division III Men's Basketball Championship Tournament Quarterfinals, punching their ticket to tomorrow's Final Four with a 69-66 come-from-behind win over the No. 11 St. Mary's College of Maryland men's basketball team Friday afternoon in front of 1,470 spectators.
Mary Hardin-Baylor (26-5) erased a 10-point second-half deficit, outscoring the Seahawks, 27-16, over a 12-minute span. First-year Layton Zinsmeister (The Woodlands, Texas) fired up his only shot of the contest at 3:02, knocking the three-pointer to even up the score at 62-62. Junior guard Donn Hill (Aberdeen, Md./Bel Air) maintained the lead for St. Mary's with a layup before senior guard Cory Meals (Whitesboro, Texas) followed Zinsmeister's lead with his second three of the afternoon to give the Crusaders a three-point lead (1:47) that they would never relinquish.
Junior guard Brendan McFall (Poolesville, Md./Poolesville) pulled the Seahawks within one at 1:18. After rebounding a missed Crusader three-pointer with 37.3 seconds on the clock, the Seahawks brought the ball down the court and were settling into a set play before a travel call put the ball back in the hands of Mary Hardin-Baylor with 9.1 remaining. Senior guard Thomas Orr (Hutto, Texas) was sent to the line for two shots, making both at 00:04.9 to restore UMHB's three-point lead.
Zinsmeister slows St. Mary's progress down the court by fouling junior guard Kyle Wise (Baltimore, Md./Calvert Hall College) with 2.8 to go. St. Mary's inbounds the ball to sophomore guard Nick LaGuerre (Baltimore, Md./Lansdowne), who shakes off one defender and spins to the top of the key, firing up a last-second shot that bounced off the front iron as time expired.
St. Mary's eighth-year head coach Chris Harney '97 expressed, "I thought my guys did a great job. It just came down at the end to a couple of possessions. I give all the credit to Mary Hardin-Baylor and the coaching staff, adjusting to what we were doing and their better shot selection changed the flow of the game."
The loss brings St. Mary's record-setting season to a close with a 27-4 record. The 27 wins are the most by any men's basketball team in Seahawk history. The Seahawks enjoyed the program's fifth NCAA tournament appearance and just their second trip to the Elite Eight.
Senior guard James Davenport (Baltimore, Md./Loyola Blakefield) finished out his career with a solid game, leading the Seahawks with 16 points – 11 of which came in the second half. LaGuerre finished the afternoon with a dozen while first-year forward Troy Spurrier (Mt. Airy, Md./Glenelg) added a dozen as well off the bench. Rounding out the scoring for St. Mary's was Hill with 10 points.
The Seahawks controlled a tight first half as their quick defense forced Mary Hardin-Baylor into seven turnovers while St. Mary's only had two miscues. After Orr gave the Crusaders a 20-18 advantage with his fourth long-range shot of the half, Spurrier sparked a 14-6 run with consecutive baskets to send the Seahawks into the locker room with a 32-26 margin, finishing with eight points in the run.
Orr and Meals combined to bring Mary Hardin-Baylor within one just 36 seconds into the second half. However, the Seahawks responded with a 16-7 run to put the Crusaders against the rope. Orr lit up the scoreboard for UMHB with a game-high 26 points despite being shutdown from downtown in the second half. Junior forward Kitrick Bell (Fort Bend, Texas) contributed to the Crusader win with a double-double of 15 points and game-best 11 rebounds.
Mary Hardin-Baylor will now face the University of St. Thomas (Minn.) (30-1), the 2011 NCAA Division III national champions, tomorrow night at 6:00 pm in the first of two semifinals.
Twitter: http://twitter.com/smcseahawks, #SeahawkNation