KANSAS CITY, Mo. - (Box Score) Shorter's (Ga.) attempt to become the first team since Faulkner (Ala.) in 2001 to make a run to the national title game in its first national tournament appearance came up short on Monday in the semifinals of the 75th Anniversary Buffalo Funds-NAIA Division I Men's Basketball National Championship. The top-ranked Hawks fell victim to No. 4 Concordia (Calif.), 81-67.
Concordia will play the winner between No. 2 Oklahoma Baptist and No. 11 Mountain State (W.Va.) on Tuesday in the national title game at 7 p.m. CDT. The game will be televised live nationally on CBS Sports Network.
Just as it did in its quarterfinal win over LSU Shreveport, Concordia raced out to a large lead in the early going. But this time the Eagles had to stave off a Shorter rally that cut a 15-point early second half margin to one at the 5:19 mark of the second half. The Hawks used a 26-12 run to get within 59-58, spurred by back-to-back buckets by Shorter star forward Walter Hill to begin the comeback. A C.J. Davis layup capped the run to close the gap to one point, marking the closest the game had been since Concordia led 4-3 just 2:07 into the game.
"It helped to get off to a fast start," Concordia head coach Ken Ammann said. "We jumped on them early and that was huge because we knew they were going to make a run. This team does a great job competing for 40 minutes and they give everything for each other. I am so proud of them."
Concordia responded with a spurt of its own that would put the game on ice. The Eagles' Edward Willis initiated an 11-0 run by driving home a basket in the lane and then a pair of free throws. Tommy Stangl then knocked in a back-breaking three with 4:20 left to make the score 66-58. Dakota Downs pushed the lead up to a dozen with a two more points for Concordia before a Davis free throw finally put the run to an end. However, the field goal drought of 3:22 proved fatal for Shorter.
"I'm so proud of our guys and of this season that they have had," Shorter head coach Chad Warner said. "Tonight we were not the better team. Concordia is a hot team right now and they played fantastic. I was proud that we were able to cut it to one in the second half, but just couldn't get over the hump."
The heavyweight contest featured near-perfect free throw shooting on both sides. The Eagles finished 23-for-24 from the charity stripe and did not miss a free throw until Austin Simon failed on the front end of a one-and-one with 1:46 remaining in the game, ending a streak of 15 free throw makes in a row to begin the game. Shorter was almost as proficient, nailing 15-of-17 free throw attempts, with its first miss coming at the 2:48 mark of the game.
The Eagles' Cameron Gliddon continued his exceptional work from beyond the arc on Saturday, going 4-for-9 from deep. He also tied a team high with 19 points. For the tournament, Gliddon is averaging 20.8 points per game and has connected on 18 of his 33 3-point attempts in four games. Downs came off the bench to post 16 points and 13 rebounds, including seven on the offensive end as Concordia out-rebounded Shorter 47-31.
Davis paced the Hawks with 21 points, followed closely by Hill's 18 points. Hill also added four steals.
The Eagles will play in the national title game for the fourth time in school history when they take the floor on Tuesday. They captured the 2003 title with an 88-84 victory over Mountain State in the championship final. Concordia lost to Mountain State in rematch in the 2004 title game and also lost to Oklahoma City in 2007in its other championship final appearance.
Concordia improved to 30-7 this season and 23-8 all-time in its 10 national tournament appearances. Shorter ends its season at 34-3 overall and fell to 3-1 in its first appearance at the National Championship.
Concordia - Concordia advances to its fourth championship game all-time, all coming in the last 10 years, and is unbeaten all-time in the Fab Four ... The Eagles improved to 25-1 this season when leading at halftime ... The Golden State Athletic Conference has now had a team in the championship game five times in the past 10 seasons (2003, 2004, 2007, 2010) ... Concordia improved to 24-8 (.750) all-time at the national tournament, the highest winning percentage among teams in this year's event.
Shorter - Shorter was one of only two teams in this year's field to advance to the Fab Four in its first-ever national tournament appearance (MidAmerica Nazarene, 2009) ... The Hawks lost for just the second time in eight games this season when trailing at halftime ... The Hawks were the sixth team from the state of Georgia to advance to the Fab Four (Georgia Southern, Life, Southern Poly, Valdosta State, West Georgia) ... Shorter suffered its worst loss of the season and by the largest margin since a 16-point defeat to Emmanuel (Ga.) on Feb. 10, 2011.