By Eric Montgomery | NAIA Media Coordinator
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – (Box Score) No. 3-seeded Life (Ga.) jumped out to an 11-0 lead and survived a last-second shot attempt to claim a 73-71 win over No. 1-seeded Carroll (Mont.), Saturday afternoon in the quarterfinal round of the 2017 Buffalo Funds-NAIA Division I Men’s Basketball National Championship at Municipal Auditorium at Municipal Auditorium. The Eagles advance to the semifinal round and will play the winner of LSU Alexandria (La.) and Pikeville (Ky.), on Monday, March 20 at 6:00 p.m., CST.
Dalarian Williams led Life with 22 points and six rebounds, while Mike Miller tallied 16 points and two assists. Zach Landis posted a double-double with 15 points and 15 rebounds, and Ivan Benkovich posted 12 points.
“It’s incredible to still be here through the weekend,” said Life head coach Keith Adkins, who took Campbellsville (Ky.) to the Fab Four last season in his final year as the Tigers head coach. “I tell my guys that this feeling is unlike anything you’ll have in our athletic career and now they’re getting to experience it and that’s wonderful.”
Life (25-10) raced out of the starting blocks and was on fire early from three-point range to take an 11-0 lead with less than three minutes played. Following a short jumper by Williams on the opening possession, Jonathan Beausejour drained a three-pointer in front of back-to-back treys by Benkovich.
The early lead swelled to as much as 14 points inside the opening five minutes as Life hit 7 of 10 three-point shots in the opening stanza and shot 56.3 percent (18 of 32) overall. Carroll had a solid shooting opening half as well after the opening blitz by the Eagles, hitting on half of its attempts (14 of 28) and 11 of 14 free throws, but was outdone at the three-point line (7-2).
The Saints saw the deficit grow to as much as 15 points in the first 2:07 of the second half before mounting a comeback. A 9-2 spurt over the next 2:36 cut the gap in half and continued to shrink over the next five minutes. A bucket in the paint by Ryan Imhoff just inside the midway point brought the Saints back within two, 60-58.
Another trey by Beausejour and a jumper by Miller stretched the Life lead back to nine, but Imhoff responded with a bucket, followed by a three-pointer by Zach Taylor with 1:40 to play. Following a miss by Benkovich, Matt Wyman scored inside to once again bring the teams within two points. Carroll had a chance to either win it or force overtime following a missed free throw by Beausejour with 20 seconds to play, but Imhoff missed a long jumper on the left wing as time expired.
“Our guys showed their competitive spirit and battled to get back into this game,” said Carroll head coach Carson Cunningham. “Sometimes coaches use those phrases, but when you're with them every day through the practices and road trips and tough games, you really feel for them when you lose and you know how badly they wanted to win."
Imhoff led all scorers with 27 points for Carroll, hitting11 of 17 shots from the field. Steven Helm added 11 points, while Taylor tossed in nine points.
Carroll concluded its season with a record of 29-6.
Life – The Eagles improved to 25-12 all-time in the national championship … Life claimed a semifinal round berth for the fifth time in program history and first since winning the 2000 national championship … The Eagles are unbeaten in its four previous Fab Four games and won three of those by double digits for an average semifinal round margin of 14.8 points … Life shot 50 percent or better from the field for the 11th time this season … Landis recorded his 12th double-double of the season … The Eagles shot fewer than 10 free throws for just the fourth time this season.
Carroll – The Saints were making their 11th appearance for the program at the NAIA National Championship, falling to 11-11 all-time...With the loss, Carroll missed out on advancing to the semifinals for the first time since 2005...The Saints have won at least one game in the national championship in five of the last six appearances dating back to 2005...Carroll is one of three Frontier Conference teams in this season’s national championship, posting a record of 3-3... Zach Taylor passed the 2,000-point mark for his career in the second half of Carroll's second-round victory over SAGU (Texas) and finishes his career with 2,019 points...Carroll entered the game No. 1 in the country in field goal percentage (53.5 percent) and free throw percentage (82.1 percent)...The Saints were also second nationally in 3-point percentage (43 percent), but only sank 6-of-19 (31.6 percent) from beyond the arc...Ryan Imhoff's 11 field goals is tied for third-most in a single game in the 2017 national championship thus far...The Saints tallied just 20 rebounds, the lowest single-game total by any team in the 2017 national championship...Carroll was outscored, 19-4, by Life in second-chance points and never led in the game.
Tournament Notes – All four No. 1 seeds advanced to the Field of Eight today… Field includes three No. 3 seeds and a No. 6... First time all four No. 1 seeds advanced since full seeding began in the 2016 tourney…..Life is making its fourth quarterfinal while Carroll, Pikeville, and Texas Wesleyan are in their third. William Penn is making its second as is Dalton State. Langston and Louisiana State-Alexandria are making their quarterfinal debuts….Dalton State is in their second tournament and quarterfinal after winning the 2015 National Tournament….While many teams load up with college transfers, Carroll and Life are dominated with high school players. Carrol leads the way with 13 on the roster while Life touts 10….Entering today’s game Carroll and Life lead the tourney in made 3-pointers (13 and 12 respectively). Life finished with 8 and Carroll had 6 The two have combined for 39 made treys in the tournament.