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St. Catharine Holds Off Hope International, 79-75

March 22, 2014
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – (Box score) St. Catharine (Ky.) completed the eight-team group that will comprise the quarterfinalists at the 2014 Buffalo Funds-NAIA Division I Men’s Basketball National Championship after earning a 79-75 win over Hope International (Calif.), Friday evening in Municipal Auditorium. The Patriots will square off with MidAmerica Nazarene (Kan.) on Saturday at 6:00 p.m. CDT.

Just over 24 hours removed from surviving two missed free throws in the final seconds and defending an attempt at a buzzer-beater against No. 5-seeded SAGU (Texas), St. Catharine found itself in a similar situation as Hope International trimmed a 70-58 deficit with 6:04 to play down to three after a 3-pointer by Jeremy Kilgore with 42 seconds to play.

The Royals forced a turnover on the next possession, setting up a chance at a potential game-tying field goal. Matt Green got the 3-point look for the Royals, but had his miss grabbed by the Patriots’ William Bailey. Green forced another turnover and fed Kilgore for another long-range effort that also missed the mark. The ball was tipped around under the hoop and Austin Sanford was fouled on the putback attempt.

Sanford made the second of his two free throw attempts with 4.2 seconds to play. St. Catharine was able to find William Tolefree after the make and he put the game away with two free throws.

The Patriots jumped out to a 17-6 lead at the 12:28 mark of the first half, only to see that lead gone with 5:23 until the break. The momentum quickly shifted back to St. Catharine, finishing the half with a 15-8 scoring advantage to take a 38-30 cushion into the intermission.

“I took Will Bailey out for a bad shot, but he came back in and scored six huge points for us,” said St. Catharine head coach J.T. Burton. “After that, I think our guys are finally starting to believe in all the early-morning work that we put in to get to this point.”

Omar Skinner made seven of ten field goals to lead the Patriots with 20 points to go along with four rebounds and three steals. William Bailey added 17 points and four rebounds while Raymon Austin tallied 11 points and seven rebounds. Tolefree and Taron Franklin each chipped in with 10 points and combined for eight rebounds and seven assists.

“I am real proud of our effort all year long,” said Hope International head coach Bill Czech. “My guys are just a really classy group of guys to coach. They battled through one tough situation after another. This game symbolizes the season how they kept showing their heart and fighting while staying together.”

Kilgore led all scorers with 27 points for Hope International, which shot 41.7 percent from the field and hit eight of 21 shots (.381) from three-point range. Garrett Neilan collected 18 points, six rebounds and three assists, Sanford added 13 points and 11 rebounds, and Green finished with 11 points for the Royals.

Hope International finishes its season with a record of 23-11.

Game notes:
St. Catharine – The Patriots committed 33 turnovers in their first-round victory, but cut that number to just eight against the Royals … St. Catharine had lost three of its last four games coming into the tournament … The Patriots won its second round game in its first-ever appearance in the round of 16 … St. Catharine won its 20th game for the first time since the 2010-11 season … Skinner recorded his 23rd double-digit scoring performance of the season.

Hope International – The Royals lost in the second round for the season-straight year, the program’s first two appearances in the National Championship … Hope International boasted the nation’s best defense, allowing just six opponents to score at least 70 points this season … The 79 points were the second-most allowed by the Royals this season, yielding 90 to Vanguard (Calif.) in the Golden State Athletic Conference Tournament … Jeremy Kilgore was one point shy of matching his season-high of 28 points scored against Xavier (La.) in the first round.