Kansas City, Mo. - (box score; video highlights) Top-seeded Shorter (Ga.) made a successful debut at the 75th Anniversary Buffalo Funds-NAIA Division I Men's Basketball National Championship. The Hawks, who are making their first appearance in the tournament after a 31-2 regular-season record, took down Life (Ga.), 105-93. The event is held at Municipal Auditorium.
Shorter takes on the winner of No. 16 Point Loma Nazarene (Calif.) / Texas Wesleyan winner on Friday at 10:45 a.m. CST.
"I had talked to coaches who had been to the tournament before, and they all told me to focus on the first game because it can be the toughest to win," said Shorter head coach Chad Warner, who was honored Tuesday night as the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) NAIA National Coach of the Year. "We played well and are excited to get [the first game] out of the way. Now we need to rest and get focused to get back on the floor for another."
The Hawks sprinted out to a 14-4 lead in the game's first four minutes and never looked back. Life's Ramon Walker hit a jumper at the 15:11 mark to shave down the deficit to six at 14-8, but that was as close as the Running Eagles would get. Shorter had runs of 12-3 and 17-7 in the first half to take a 51-40 lead at intermission.
Shorter would sail to the 12-point win as the lead never dropped below 10 points in the second half. The Hawks nailed 65 percent (11-of-17) of their second-half field goals and knocked down 32-of-40 free throws (.800) in the game's final 20 minutes.
C.J. Davis stepped up for the Hawks to hit a team-high 27 points on 6-of-12 shooting. Kenny Leverette added 25 points, with most of them coming from the free-throw line (16 points).
Lost in the shuffle was the career-high, 43-point effort by Life's PJ Meyers. He shot 14-of-28 from the field and posted four assists as he logged all 40 minutes. Mico Sjekloca and Andrew Woods chipped in 11 and 10 points, respectively.
"We were up and down all year," said Life head coach John Barrett. "We had to overcome an awful lot just to be here. As far as effort with our team, we played hard all the way to the end and I'm very proud of us for that. But when you shoot 35-percent from the field and you allow your opponent to shoot nearly 60-percent, you don't give yourself much of a chance to win."
The Running Eagles end their year at 19-15. This event was their 13th all-time appearance, and they fall to 22-10.
Shorter - Shorter picked up the victory in its first-ever game at the national tournament ... The No. 1 seed moves to 51-5 all-time in opening round games at the national tournament ... Shorter is fourth nationally in field goal percentage offense at 49.7% and finished today's game shooting 57.8% from the floor ... Shorter scored 105 points in today's game, its highest total of the season ... Today's win sends Shorter to 32-2 overall - its first-ever 30-win season.
Life - PJ Meyers came in as the No. 4 scorer in NAIA Division I at 23.8 ppg... Meyers has scored in double-figures in thirty-four consecutive games, including every game this season ... Life has lost five consecutive opening round appearances dating back to 2000, when it won the national championship ... Today's game was the seventh time the Running Eagles have given up 100+ points to an opponent this year.