By Eric Montgomery | NAIA Staff
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – (Box score) No. 8-seeded Emmanuel (Ga.) became the first team to earn a spot in the semifinal round of the 2014 Buffalo Funds-NAIA Division I Men’s Basketball National Championshipafter outlasting top-seeded Cal State San Marcos in overtime, 94-89, Saturday afternoon in Municipal Auditorium. The Lions will square off with the winner of St. Catharine (Ky.) and MidAmerica Nazarene (Kan.) on Monday, March 24 at 8:00 p.m. CDT.
Emmanuel appeared to be firmly in control of the game, leading 60-41 with 8:11 remaining in the second half. Cal State San Marcos was not going to see its 23-game winning streak end without a comeback, however, as the Cougars went on a 23-4 run to knot the teams at 64-64 with 2:36 left. The Lions attempted just two shots during the span and committed six turnovers.
The runs continued as the Lions answered with seven-unanswered points to lead 71-64 with 1:12 to play. The Cougars had another reply with Zack Zaragoza hitting the tying three-pointer with eight seconds left to send the game into overtime.
San Marcos carried the early momentum into the extra frame as Malcolm Lemmons converted a three-pointer just 12 seconds after the tip. In fitting fashion, each team had runs left in them as the Lions scored the next 11 of the next 13 points to go up by six. The Cougars battled back once again, answering with an 8-2 spurt to tie the game with 1:16 to play. The Lions had the game-deciding push with the next four points to earn its first-ever Fab Four berth.
A first half that included three significant scoring runs went in favor of Emmanuel, which surged ahead by double digits twice in the opening twenty minutes. The Lions used a 13-5 spurt to the 10:56 mark to take a 19-7 lead, only to see the Cougars answer with 12-straight points to tie the teams with 6:12 until half. Emmanuel finished the half by outscoring San Marcos, 16-5, taking a 35-24 lead into the intermission.
Emmanuel shot 45.2 percent (14 of 31) in the first half while holding San Marcos to 28.1 percent shooting. Both teams strugged at the free throw line early on, combining for eight connections on 15 attempts. The Lions finished the game 34 of 67 (.507) from the field and converted 20 of 30 free throws, while the Cougars shot 40.8 percent for the game with seven of their 18 three-point attempts hitting the mark.
“(Cal State San Marcos) is number one in the country, so I didn’t think they weren’t coming back,” said Emmanuel head coach TJ Rosene. "I just hoped they didn’t come that far back. We knew it was coming. I’m glad our guys kept fighting.”
Adrian Justice scored a season-high 30 points to go along with 12 rebounds and five assists for Emmanuel, which played its first overtime game of the season. Michael Stanley delivered 22 points and 11 rebounds, Zach Lillie tallied 12 points and six rebounds, while Luke Miller chipped in with 10 points.
“We got the lead in the overtime, we just didn’t make the stops we needed to make,” said Cal State San Marcos head coach Jim Saia. “We had some ill-advised fouls and kept putting them on the line. I thought we were at the breaking point. When Malcolm (Lemmons) hit the three at the start of overtime, I thought we were going to win the game.”
Bobby Macias led the way for the Cougars with 25 points and five rebounds, converting eight of his 12 field goal attempts as well as eight of nine free throws. Four other players scored in double figures for San Marcos: Jason Johnson (14), Quincy Lawson (13), Zack Zaragoza (12), and Lemmons (11).
Cal State San Marcos finishes its season with a record of 32-2.
Emmanuel– The Lions are the first No. 8 seed to make the Fab Four since 2009 (Robert Morris (Ill.)) and the first teams from the Southern States Athletic Conference in the semifinals since Shorter (Ga.) in 2012 … Zach Lillie did not play in the second round game and matched a season-high in points after averaging 3.6 points coming in … Stanley entered the quarterfinals averaging 25.7 points and 10 rebounds over the last three games … The Lions have six-straight seasons with at least 20 wins.
Cal State San Marcos – The Cougars suffered their first loss since Dec. 7 and had the longest winning streak (tied with William Carey) in the NAIA snapped … The loss marked the second-straight year the top seed in the National Championship has failed to reach the Fab Four … The 24 points in the first half were the fewest scored by the Cougars this season, the previous low of 30 coming against Vanguard (Calif.) on Feb. 27 … De’End Parker failed to reach double-digit scoring for just the second time in 34 games after scoring six points.