KANSAS CITY, Mo. – (Box Score) No. 3-seeded Texas Wesleyan survived a late rally by second-seeded The Master’s and claimed a 77-75 win in the second round of the 2017 Buffalo Funds-NAIA Division I Men’s Basketball National Championship at Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City, Mo. The Rams advance to the quarterfinal round and will play the winner of No. 1-seeded Dalton State (Ga.) and No. 4-seeded Montana Western on Saturday, March 18 at 7:30 p.m., CST.
Najeal Young led all scorers with 21 points to go along with nine rebounds and two steals for Texas Wesleyan. Ryan Harris came off the bench to add 19 points and six rebounds, while Dion Rogers chipped in with 18 points and five rebounds.
“The emphasis today was about who wanted it the most, especially on the defensive side,” said Texas Wesleyan head coach Brennen Shingleton. “I just can’t tell you proud I am of Ryan (Harris) and Dion (Rogers) to accept the challenge of guarding those two big-time shooters. I’m just ecstatic that we were about to gut it out against a great team.”
The first half was played to a near stalemate as the Mustangs held a one-point lead at intermission, 37-36. The teams were even as late as the 1:55 mark before Hansel Atencia hit a three-pointer to answer a bucket by Rogers to push The Master’s in front.
After trading the lead in the early stages of the second half, Texas Wesleyan used an 11-2 run over 4:26 to claim the first double-digit advantage of the game for either side. Young hit four free throws on the front end of the surge and completed the scoring stretch with a blocked shot and bucket for a 60-50 lead.
The 10-point lead was still intact with 2:18 to play after Rogers scored from short range, but the Mustangs scored the next eight points to pull within two in just over a minute. Atencia was fouled on a three-pointer after Harris converted two free throws for the Rams, but missed on the middle of his three attempts. Harris pushed the advantage back to four with two more from the stripe as Texas Wesleyan hung on for the win.
Texas Wesleyan (26-7) shot 46.2 percent in the second half and finished the game 24 of 54 (.444) from the field as well as 24 of 34 from the free throw line. The Rams committed 20 turnovers, but managed a 46-35 advantage on the glass. The Master’s was 10 of 36 (.278) from three-point range and finished 25 of 69 (.362) overall from the floor.
“I am so proud of my guys. That group won four games last year and 27 this year. I think that might be a record for best turn around,” said The Master’s head coach Kelvin Starr. “It's been a heck of a ride this year. We ran into a really good defensive team that held us to 36 percent on the floor. We just could not score when we needed to score. I am just proud of our guys. The seniors did a really good job and we competed til the end which is all you can really ask as a coach."
Atencia and Delewis Johnson led five Mustangs in double figures with 16 points apiece, while Lawrence Russell and Reid Shackleford poured in 13 points each and combined for 10 rebounds. Travis Yenor added 10 points and a pair of steals for The Master’s.
The Master’s finished its season with a record of 27-5.
Texas Wesleyan – In their 15th appearance at the national championship, the Rams of Texas Wesleyan improve to 15-13 all-time on the national stage … Texas Wesleyan advances to its first quarterfinal since 2006 when it eventually went onto the title game … The Rams have one national title to their name … Texas Wesleyan favors helping teammates earn their stats as they rank No. 3 in the NAIA in assists per game (19) and No. 5 in total assists (589) … Naiel Smith leads his Ram squad and ranks No. 1 individually in total assists (237) and assists per game (7.6) … In the second-round contest, Smith earned six assists to his career total … From the floor, Texas Wesleyan went for 44 percent, going 24-of-54 … They utilized their defense to contain the offense of The Master’s to just 36 percent on the floor … The Rams will see either No. 1 Dalton State (Ga.) or No. 4 Montana Western in the quarterfinals. Either matchup will be a first for the 2016-17 season.
The Master’s – After only winning four games last season, the Mustangs of The Master’s turned their luck around this season as they earned 26 regular-season victories and earned their eighth bid into the national championship … After the loss, the Mustangs drop to 7-8 all-time in the national championship, with this being their first appearance since 2000 … Four Mustangs hit the double-digit mark this contest with Delewis Johnson and Hansel Atencia both scoring a team-high 16 points … From the floor, The Master’s were limited to just 36 percent … Entering the championship, the Mustangs were riding a seven-game win-streak … Reid Shackelford earned double-digits for 16 consecutive contests … This appearance in the second-round was the program’s fifth in school history.