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Top-Seeded Shorter Survives Upset Bid by Rogers State

March 17, 2012
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. - (Box score) Walter Hill's 15 second-half points helped lead No. 1-seed Shorter (Ga.) to a 63-60 victory over No. 9 Rogers State (Okla.) in the first quarterfinal of the 2012 Buffalo Funds-NAIA Division I Men's Basketball National Championship. In their first national championship appearance, the Hawks advance to the Fab Four to be played on March19. They will face the winner of No. 4 Concordia (Calif.) and No. 12 LSU Shreveport (La.) at 6 p.m. CDT.

Shorter trailed by five at the half and was behind 48-37 in the second before the comeback.

"This was as gritty of an effort as I have had a team show in my five years," said Shorter head coach Chad Warner. "On a day when not a lot went our way - and that is a credit to Rogers State - we somehow found a way to stay together and gut out a win.

"We won the game on the defensive end of the floor and on the glass. We had multiple guys step up and make big plays, be it Walter Hill with a big second half offensively, C.J. hitting a big three late, Kenny stepping up defensively, or Anthony, who had such a tough night, coming up with four free throws and a big offensive rebound down the stretch."

Rogers State controlled the lead for most of the first half. With the score tied at 12-12, the fourth tie, Meneptha Darden nailed a 3-pointer that started a Rogers State 20-11 run. Shorter's Brian Gibson hit a basket right before halftime to cut the deficit to five at 34-29.

The Hawks owned the boards in the first half (27-12), but turned the ball over 12 times.

A trey by Alex Ewings at the 13:05 mark of the second half handed Rogers State the biggest lead of the game at 48-37. But, that is when the Hillcat shooters went cold. Rogers State went scoreless during a 6:33 stretch that allowed Shorter to gain the momentum and its first lead since the first point of the game.

Donald Williams' fastbreak layup at the 3:41 mark gave Rogers State a 58-52 lead, but the No. 1-ranked team in the Top 25 Poll had an answer.

Trailing 60-59, Eric Nix found Anthony Banks at the basket where he was fouled. The junior forward sank two foul shots to give the Hawks the lead for good with :18 remaining. Shorter got a defensive stop on the ensuing Rogers State possession and the Hillcats were forced to foul. Banks again nailed a pair of freebies to seal it.

After a slow first half, Hill finished with 18 points and nine rebounds. Shorter also got contributions in the scoring column by Kenny Leverette (10), and C.J. Davis (8).

Kendrell Thompson and Larry Cox led Rogers State with 12 points apiece. Cox also recorded nine boards.

Shorter shot 36 percent overall and Rogers State was at 35 percent.

Rogers State ends the year in its third national championship appearance with a 24-8 overall record.

 "I am so proud of the way our men played today and all season," said Hillcat head coach Justin Barkley said. "This is a great group of guys and I couldn't have asked any more of them. They have battled hard all season and just could not finish it off today. I love this team and hate to see the season end for our seniors. They left it all on the court."

Game notes:
Rogers State - Rogers State lost in the quarterfinal round of the national tournament for the second-straight season, falling to Mountain State (W.Va.), 69-62 in 2011 ... The Hillcats had their second-lowest offensive output of the season and were 1-4 this season when failing to score at least 65 points ... Rogers State matched a season-low with 19 field goals made ... The Hillcats fell to 4-3 all-time at the national tournament in three appearances.

Shorter - Shorter is making its first-ever appearance at the national tournament and is one of only two teams in this year's field to qualify for the Fab Four in its first try (MidAmerica Nazarene, 2009) ... The Hawks are 6-1 this season when trailing at halftime ... Of Shorter's 34 wins, only seven have been by less than 10 points ... This is the first time since 2008 the No. 1 seed has advanced to the Fab Four (Georgetown, Ky.).