By Eric Montgomery | NAIA Media Coordinator
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – (Box Score) No. 3-seeded Texas Wesleyan came back from a 16-point, second half deficit and knocked off No.1-seeded William Penn (Iowa) in overtime, 83-82, Monday evening in the semifinal round of the 2017 Buffalo Funds-NAIA Division I Men’s Basketball National Championship at Municipal Auditorium. The Rams advance to the championship game and will play Life (Ga.), a 65-63 winner over LSU Alexandria (La.), on Tuesday, March 21 at 7:00 p.m., CST. The game will be broadcast live on ESPN3.
Dion Rogers hit a short jumper from the left baseline with 2.3 seconds remaining to send Texas Wesleyan to its second national championship game in program history. The Rams (28-7) won the 2006 NAIA Division I national championship, a 69-65 win over Oklahoma City.
“We’ve been getting in our own heads all year and we were really uncomfortable to start, so we had to figure out how to play our game,” said Texas Wesleyan head coach Brennen Shingleton. “We were really stagnant at first and it took us awhile to figure out where we could get shots. Once we did that we got to play at our pace.”
Texas Wesleyan (28-7) looked unlikely to be around for its second-ever national championship game, trailing 51-35 at the 16:22 mark of the second half. The Rams shot just 26.3 percent (10 of 38) in the first half, including 3 of 15 from three-point range, while William Penn posted a 16 of 31 clip (.516) before adding to its 10-point halftime advantage.
Following the field goal by Kevin Smith for the biggest lead of the game, Texas Wesleyan answered immediately with a 10-2 spurt over the next 3:47, capped off by a three-pointer from Harris to halve the deficit. As the defense held the Statesmen to just two field goals over a span of 8:12, leading to the Rams taking a 61-60 lead.
The Rams held the biggest lead of the latter stages of overtime, holding a 72-68 lead after a jumper by Young with 3:13 to play. The Statesmen tied the game with four-straight points, then both teams hit three-point shots before playing out the final minute of regulation without scoring.
William Penn either led or was tied for all but the final 2.3 seconds of overtime, holding an 82-79 lead with 20 seconds to play after a steal and two free throws by Kevin Smith. Harris scored on the next possession to pull the Rams within one, followed by a foul to send Lionel Ellison to the line. He missed the front end of the 1-and-1 with 11 seconds to play, setting up Rogers’ heroic game-winner.
“We did some things that we do not normally do, committing a lot of turnovers and being outrebounded,” said William Penn head coach John Henry. “When you get to the semifinals, everyone is good and weird things happen, and unfortunately we did not play as well as we needed to.”
Najeal Young recorded a double-double with 21 points and 12 rebounds to lead the way for Texas Wesleyan. Dion Rogers and Ryan Harris each tallied 18 points and combined for 12 rebounds, while Naiel Smith added 11 points, eight rebounds, six assists and four steals. Jeremy Crane also chipped in with 10 points and five rebounds.
Jarvis Haywood led the way for William Penn with 22 points, three rebounds and two assists in a reserve role. Torren Jones posted 19 points and 18 rebounds, while Smith recorded 16 points, 10 assists, four rebounds and three steals.
William Penn concluded its season with a record of 33-4.
Texas Wesleyan – The Rams are making their 15th appearance in the NAIA Division I Men's Basketball National Championship...Texas Wesleyan is now 17-13 all-time in the national championship... Thursday's opening-round win over Cumberlands (Ky.) was the Rams' first national tournament victory since 2010, when they beat Central Methodist (Mo.) in the first round...The Rams are one of four Sooner Athletic Conference teams in this year's national tournament, having earned an automatic bid by winning the conference's regular-season championship with a 13-5 record...Texas Wesleyan is now 10-3 versus 2017 national championship qualifiers...This was the Rams' first overtime game this season...Texas Wesleyan is now 5-4 in games decided by three points or less or in overtime...The Rams' 12 steals is the second-highest total for a team (behind only the 13 Texas Wesleyan had versus Dalton State (Ga.) in the semifinals)...Six different Rams had at least five rebounds in the game...Five different Rams had at least nine field goal attempts and three Texas Wesleyan players had at least eight 3-point attempts.
William Penn – The Statesmen are making their second trip to the national championship in just their second year of playing NAIA Division I basketball...The Statesmen have an 11-5 record in the national tournament since 2012-2013, including a runner-up finish in the NAIA Division II National Championship in 2013...William Penn head coach John Henry has led the Statesmen to six conference regular-season titles, five tournament titles and is making his seventh appearance at the national championship... Henry has guided William Penn to 12 winning seasons, including the last six straight...William Penn is now 5-2 all-time in the national championship...The Statesmen were looking to advance to their first national title game at the Division I level...The Statesmen are one of four Heart of America Athletic Conference teams to qualify for the 2017 national championship, earning an automatic bid as the conference's regular-season champion with a record of 23-3...William Penn is now 2-1 in overtime games this season and 5-3 in games decided by four points or less or in overtime...Torren Jones' 8 turnovers is tied for the most by a player in a single game in the 2017 event...Jones' 18 rebounds gives him the top two individual rebounding performances - along with 21 in the opening round vs. Loyola (La.) - in this season’s national championship...Six different William Penn players had at least six points...Three Statesmen had 12 or more field goal attempts...The Statesmen's 11 steals is tied for the third-most in this season’s event by a team in a single game...Torren Jones' 16 defensive rebounds is the most by a single player in the 2017 national championship...William Penn's 22 turnovers were the third-most in a single game by a team in the 2017 event.
General Notes: - The second national semifinal was only the second overtime game in the 2017 event … The contest was also the first overtime semifinal since 2010 when Oklahoma Baptist def. Robert Morris (Ill.) 81-79 in one overtime to advance … The top two programs in the final NAIA Coaches’ Poll both fell in the national semifinals (William Penn (Iowa) and LSU-Alexandria (La.)) … The national championship game will feature two No. 3 seeds on Tuesday night … With Jones from William Penn now out, Dalarian Williams of Life (Ga.) is now the leading scorer in the national championship as he has averaged 21.7 points in the event … There are four national championships between the two contenders on Tuesday night with Life (3) and Texas Wesleyan (1) both earning a red banner … The two teams have not yet met this season … Texas Wesleyan now improves to 17-13 in the national championship while Life improves to 26-12 all-time in the event … The national championship game will tip at 7:02 p.m. CDT Tuesday night on ESPN3.