By Steve Wilson | NAIA Media Relations
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – (Box Score) (Video of buzzer-beater) Malcolm Mann nearly lost the basketball on his way to the cup as time ran out in the title game of the Buffalo Funds-NAIA Division I Men's Basketball National Championship Tuesday (March 22), but the junior gathered himself to hit the game-winner with under a second left to lift No. 4-seed Mid-America Christian (Okla.) to its first-ever NAIA national championship, 100-99 in overtime, over top seeded Georgetown (Ky.).
The Plano, Texas, native saw his shot bounce on the rim three times before dropping through and the Evangels took home the 79th annual red banner.
"If I didn't see anyone within two seconds I was taking it myself," Mann said. "I lost the ball for a little bit, and by the grace of God it went in."
Mann had 23 points for the Evangels (28-9), who won the title in just their second trip to the championship, two off Devonse Reed's team-high 25. Following the game, Reed was named the Chuck Taylor Most Valuable Player Award winner.
"It's really about helping my teammates," Reed said. "I know they have my back and I do my best to have their back."
Georgetown (32-4) was led by Noah Cottrill, who posted a game-best 32, followed by Tony Kimbro with 25 and Deondre McWhorter with 21. On the other side, five found double digits for the Evangels, getting 16 from Bryon Miller, 14 from Nick Tate and 12 for Chris Runnells. But it was Mann's final two that will be remembered most.
"I don't think we even got Malcolm a screen, but four seconds for him is a lifetime," said MACU head coach Josh Gamblin. "He got what he wanted and it was a tremendous finish."
MACU didn't lead until the 2:07 mark in the second half, trailing by as many as 14, 55-41, with 18:52 left in the second half. The Evangels used a 19-5 run to tie the game at 60 with 13:11 to play on a fast-break lay-in by Mann. It took MACU 11 minutes to go ahead, but the Evangels were down 82-80 with 46 seconds left when Kimbro broke an 80-all tie in the lane to make it 82-80. But the Tigers’ Runnells managed to hit a shot that sent the game to overtime with 21 seconds to play.
Tied at 82 after 40 minutes, Georgetown began overtime on a 4-0 run on free throws by McWhorter and a pair in the lane for Jordan Green to make it 86-82. MACU followed with the next five points, going up 87-86 when Miller laid in two after Green turned the ball over at the 3:00 mark. Reed was credited with a steal and Green an intentional foul that put Reed at the line, making the first before Miller's basket to regain the lead for MACU.
The lead changed hands two more times before Mid-America Christian took what looked like it might be the game's last lead change, down 88-87 when Reed followed his own miss for two points to put the Evangels on top 89-88. MACU led by as many as four, up 97-93 on two free throws for Exzavia Seaton, but Trent Gilbert capped a 6-1 run for the Tigers, draining a three from the corner in front of the Georgetown bench with less than five seconds to play, putting Georgetown back on top 99-98.
“Trent came off the bench and hit a shot he has hit a million times," said Georgetown coach Chris Briggs. "I knew he was going to hit it. Our guys might have celebrated too much at that point. Tried to pull them back together."
After the near-dagger, MACU's Mann went nearly the full 94 feet to score the final bucket, getting the ball out of his hand a tenth of a second before Municipal Auditorium's red backboard light came on. The ball ticked the iron three times before falling through, handing the Evangels their first-ever NAIA national championship.
“We played a tough schedule," Gamblin said. "We're tested and we have a lot of transfers. They love each other and play for each other, and when you do that, good things tend to happen."
For Georgetown, the loss comes after a dominant first half, beginning with the Tigers' first five baskets from beyond the 3-point arc, three from Kimbro and a pair for Cottrill. The Tigers didn't miss a triple until 9:30 in to the game, making their first six from outside the arc to lead 25-15 after the game's first 10 minutes. With 4:30 before the break, Georgetown's lead remained at 10 when Green found McWhorter waiting on the left block. Green tossed the ball over the rim for McWhorter to flush, putting the Tigers up 40-30, and Georgetown led 50-39 at intermission.
"I can't talk, that's how tough this is," Briggs said. "This is a special group. It's been fun to be around them and they deserve better. But we didn't make the stops when we needed to. We knew they would go on a run. They are a dangerous team and shot the ball well. We talked about the shots we didn't need to give up and we gave them up. They got shots in the lane and drives to the basket."
MACU shot 49.4 percent in the game, including 57.5 percent in the final 45 minutes, and the Evangels were 14-for-19 at the free-throw line, while Cottrill was 12-for-12 at the line by himself for the Tigers, who were 21-for-25 at the stripe as a team. Georgetown shot 46.5 percent, including 51.4 percent in the first half, and the Tigers out-rebounded the Evangels 41-36. Georgetown did hurt itself with 17 turnovers, and MACU outscored Georgetown in the paint, 52-36.
"We have really good players with very good kids, the administration was great and it was built well," Gamblin said of his MACU program. "We have two really good assistant coaches and it's about them. We had a bad taste in our mouth from the conference tournament, and we won a bunch of good, tough games in Kansas City."
General Tournament Notes
• This year marked a new champion for the eighth-straight year.
• Five of those champions in the last eight years – Mid-America Christian, Dalton State (Ga.), Vanguard (Calif.), Pikeville (Ky.) and Rocky Mountain (Mont.) – were winners for the first time in school history.
• The overtime finish is the first such in the national title game since 2011 – Pikeville defeating Mountain State (W.Va.), 83-76.
• This is the first championship game to have a winner score at least 100 points since 1971 when Kentucky State triumphed over Eastern Michigan, 102-82.
• The 199 combined points scored by both teams is the highest total in the 79-year history of the championship.
• No. 1 Georgetown failed to become the first top seed to win the title since Mountain State (W.Va.) did so in 2002.
No. 4 Mid-America Christian (Okla.)
Making its first national championship title game appearance… The Evangels move to 7-1 in their second-ever championship tournament – the other time was 2015 when they advanced to the quarterfinals… In his first year as head coach, Josh Gamblin has led team to 28-9 season, which is the winningest season for the Evangels… MACU head coach Josh Gamblin, who is 27 years old, becomes the youngest coach to win a men’s college basketball national championship at any four-year NAIA or NCAA college or university… Chuck Taylor Tournament MVP Devonse Reed finishes sixth in scoring throughout the championship with 122 total points, averaging 24.2 per game…Malcolm Mann made the last two shots, including one free throw and the buzzer beater ending the night with 23 points… Mid-America Christian added another title to the state of Oklahoma. The Sooner state now holds claim to a NAIA-record 11 championships… The Evangels become the first rep from the Sooner Athletic Conference to win the title since former member Oklahoma Baptist in 2010.
No. 1 Georgetown (Ky.)
Making its sixth national championship title game appearance…Last won title in 2013, defeating SAGU (Texas), 88-62…Drops to 2-4 in championship title game history… Georgetown falls to 65-34 all-time in 35 championship appearances – both of those marks (wins & appearances) is a NAIA championship best… Head Coach Chris Briggs is in his fifth year with the Tigers and led his team to a 32-4 season, which ties for the second winningest season in program history…Ends championship as No. 1 in total scoring per game, averaging 92.7…Regular season high-scorer Deondre McWhorter averaged 4.1 points better than in the regular season – he finished with 21 points and 11 rebounds, earning his 16th double-double on the season and national player of the year accolades.
Dii'jon Allen-Jordan, Campbellsville University (Ky.)
Sekou Harris, Campbellsville University (Ky.)
Nick Syrie, MidAmerica Nazarene University (Kan.)
Justin Randall, MidAmerica Nazarene University (Kan.)
Joe Jackson, Our Lady of the Lake University (Texas)
Devonse Reed, Mid-America Christian University (Okla.)
Bryon Miller, Mid-America Christian University (Okla.)
Deondre McWhorter, Georgetown College (Ky.)
Noah Cottrill, Georgetown College (Ky.)
Tony Kimbro, Georgetown College (Ky.)
Chuck Taylor Most Valuable Player Award: Devonse Reed, Mid-America Christian (Okla.)
Charles S. Stevenson Hustle Award: Zach Taylor, Carroll (Mont.)
Dr. James Naismith-Emil S. Liston Sportsmanship Award: Mid-America Christian (Okla.)
Charles A. Krigel Award*: Josh Gamblin, Mid-America Christian (Okla.)
Chuck Walden Memorial Trophy (given to Honorary Coaches of championship team): Liston Insurance
Frank Cramer Award^: John Mulvihill
2015 - 16 NAIA Division I Men's Basketball Player of the Year: Deondre McWhorter, Georgetown (Ky.)
2015 - 16 Rawlings-NAIA Division I Men's Basketball Coach of the Year: Josh Gamblin, Mid-America Christian (Okla.)
* given to coach of the team that best exhibits respect, civility, integrity and fair play, the qualities that define sportsmanship
^ presented annually to the person or persons who has done the most for the basketball tournament during a period of years