Point Lookout, Mo.—Box Score | Bracket No. 2 Indiana Wesleyan held off a ferocious second-half comeback by No. 1 Davenport to win 66-65 in the second semifinal game of the 2016 NAIA Division II National Championship played tonight at the Keeter Gymnasium.
The final two points of a 17-point effort by junior sharpshooter Bob Peters, a pair of free throws with two seconds left, proved to be the difference and put Indiana Wesleyan up four, 66-62. A three-pointer that just beat the final horn by Davenport playmaker Nick Gamble provided a bit more flare to the heavyweight match-up and made it a one-point game at the end.
Peters and his teammates heroics secured the 300th career win for IWU head coach Greg Tonagel, who will lead the Wildcats to their second national championship game in three years. Tonagel guided Indiana Wesleyan to the title in 2014 where they defeated Midland (Neb.), 78-68.
Davenport began the game with a flurry, opening its largest lead of the game (10-4) following a field goal by WHAC player of the Year Dominez Burnett. Still a six-point game, the backcourt duo of Peters and Jonny Marlin scored five points each and ignited a IWU 15-0 run to seize control, 21-12.
The Wildcats buckled down defensively as well, holding Davenport without a field goal for six minutes and limited the Panthers’ shooting percentage to 31% in the opening half.
A three-pointer by Trevor Waite sparked a 10-2 IWU run, ending with five consecutive points by Peters, as the Wildcats led 40-25.
Lane Mahurin scored the first basket of the second half and gave Indiana Wesleyan its largest lead of the game, 42-25. Davenport, behind a stellar defensive effort over the final 20 minutes, methodically came back, cutting the lead down to nine on a floater by Kevin Rich at the 10 minute mark. Consecutive baskets by Gamble made it a four-point game (55-51) moments later as the Panthers defense held IWU without a field goal for nearly seven minutes.
Jacob Johnson converted a jumper in the paint to put IWU up six (62-56). Gamble and John McCloud scored on consecutive possessions to get Davenport within two. Still a two point game with one minute left, Davenport got the stop they needed on the defensive end but failed to convert on a short jumper with five seconds left to tie it.
Peters scored 15 of his team-leading 17 points in the first half and both Mahurin (12) and Johnson (10) joined the junior in double figures. Marlin chipped in nine points, seven in the first half, 11 rebounds and three assists. IWU shot 37% for the game, 24% from beyond the arc, and was held to its season low for points in a game.
“Obviously they are a tough team and we knew they were going to make a run,” commented Indiana Wesleyan head coach Greg Tonagel.” We just got stagnant on offense but we didn’t get caught up in it and we just kept playing, grinding it out. We have some tough kids on this team and great leadership and they never stopped believing."
Kevin Rich led all scorers with 21 points and also grabbed eight rebounds to lead Davenport. Gamble poured in 16 while Burnett was held to a season-low seven points before fouling out in the closing minutes. Davenport ends its season with a 32-5 record, matching the program record for wins a season.
Indiana Wesleyan, now 32-5 on the year, will play Crossroads League foe No. 1 Saint Francis (Ind.) for the championship on Tuesday night at 6pm. This is the second time that two teams from the same conference have played in the title game (2009, Oklahoma Wesleyan vs College of Ozarks).