Story by Eric Montgomery, NAIA Staff
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – (Box score) Sixth-seeded Vanguard (Calif.) survived 23 turnovers to knock off Life (Ga.), 103-94, Wednesday evening in the first round of the 2014 Buffalo Funds-NAIA Division I Men’s Basketball National Championship in Municipal Auditorium. The Lions will take on the winner of 11th-seeded Benedictine (Kan.) and Westminster (Utah) on Friday at 6:15 p.m.
Keith Mason posted game-high totals of 27 points and 13 rebounds for Vanguard, one of three players to score at least 20 points for the Lions. Preston Wynne also had a double-double with 23 points and 10 rebounds, while DeAngelo Jones recorded 21 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Chris Gorman also reached double figures with 14 points to go along with five assists.
“When we got our draw, we knew we were playing a really good team in Life, a team that has beaten two teams that were ranked No. 1 at points during the year,” said Vanguard head coach Rhett Soliday. “Life is a team that is near the top of the country in scoring, and we don’t mind playing with pace, either. We average a lot less than they do, about 80, which is still pretty good.”
The highest-scoring game of the tournament thus far was not decided until the final three minutes. Life trailed by as much as 17 points in the second half, but closed to within three points with 3:19 remaining following a basket by Latraius Mosley. Wynne scored the next four points for the Lions, followed by a free throw by Jones, and Vanguard never led by less than five points over the final 2:50.
Life established a frenetic pace to the first half with full-court pressure and led 24-15 at the 8:54 mark of the first half. However, Vanguard finished the half with a 32-15 scoring advantage to take a nine-point lead into intermission.
Vanguard (28-6) posted a 51-38 rebounding advantage that included 17 offensive rebounds and held a 34-27 edge in made free throws. The Lions shot 53.6 percent (15 of 28) in the second half and hit eight of ten free throws over the final 1:30 to pick up the victory.
“I’m really proud of our effort,” said Life head coach John Barrett. “We just came up a little short against a great team. Our free throw shooting and rebounding hurt us all year, and when you get into a game like this where that’s how you win games, we just weren’t able to hit free throws at key times, and they’d get the big rebounds.”
Donterrius Clinkscales came off the bench to score a team-high 18 points for the Running Eagles to go along with nine rebounds. Jose Pena-Benjamin and LaTarrance Carter chipped in with 15 points apiece, while Mosley finished with 13 points, 10 rebounds and three blocked shots.
Life finishes its season with a record of 19-15.
Vanguard– The Lions improved to 2-2 all-time at the national championships with the previous win coming in 1990 when they were known as Southern California College … Vanguard won its fifth-straight game overall with season-highs in free throws made (34) and attempted (45) … The points scored and allowed were both season-highs for the Lions … Wynne has made 45-straight free throws over the past 11 games.
Life – The Running Eagles fell to 22-12 all-time in the championships in their 15th appearance … Life lost in the first round for the sixth-straight year and seventh-consecutive trip overall … The last win in the tournament came for the Eagles in 2000 when they won the national championship … Life ranked No. 2 in NAIA Division I in scoring average with 98.9 points per game.