SAINT FRANCIS EDGES WALSH IN TITLE GAME
March 16, 2010
POINT LOOKOUT, Mo. - A breakaway lay-up by Qadr Owens gave #15 Saint Francis (Ind.) a 67-66 lead with 40 seconds to play and the Cougars held off top-seeded Walsh (Ohio) to win its first ever national championship, 67-66. Saint Francis became just the third double-digit seed to capture the title and the second lowest (Oregon Tech won it in 2004 as the 16th seed). The 2010 event is being played at the Keeter Gymnasium on the campus of College of the Ozarks (Mo.).
As has been the case in the previous 30 games at the championship, this one was incredibly close the entire way with 20 lead changes and four ties. The largest lead was an eight-point advantage by Walsh in the first half.
Saint Francis went on the game's first run with the score tied at nine. Matt Edmonds scored four points, Owens knocked down his only three-pointer of the night and a jumper by Ferdinand Morales-Soto gave the Cougars an 18-13 lead. Trailing by six (22-16), Walsh scored the next 10 points and held USF to without a field goal for nearly four minutes to go in front by four. A tip-in by Edmonds cut it to two but Walsh closed on the half on another run and after an Isaac Knight put-back, led 38-30. USF scored the final basket to make it a six point game at intermission.
Both teams shot very well in the first half as Walsh went 17/30 (57%) compared to 14/27 (52%) for Saint Francis. Ricky Jackson scored 12 in the first half to lead the Cavs while Edmonds led USF with 10.
A pair of three-pointers by Saint Francis at the beginning of the second half put the Cougars back in front, 46-44 by the first television timeout. Neither team held a lead larger than two the rest of the way. A reverse lay-up by Edmonds and a basket by Morales Soto put USF up two, 65-63. Walsh responded once again, however, on a Brandon Sparks three-pointer, his second in a span of 90 seconds, to put the Cavs' back up one, 66-65, with 2:23 left. The teams traded misses until a long rebound was run down by Owens and turned into an easy lay-in with 40 seconds left, which proved to be the game-winner but not the end of the drama.
Walsh missed on three opportunities to go-ahead until USF claimed the rebound and was fouled, sending Morales-Soto to the line. He missed the front end of a 1-and -1 and Walsh had another chance to take the lead. A Speck floater on the baseline was off the mark and a melee ensued for the rebound which was ultimately controlled by Sawyer-Davis with 2.3 seconds left. The junior also missed on a 1-and-1 and Walsh claimed the rebound and called a timeout. With 1.5 seconds left, Walsh threw it long on the inbounds pass but it was knocked away by USF and Saint Francis claimed its first ever national championship.
"We had to play harder and smarter on defense in the second half and guys came in and stepped up," commented Saint Francis coach Jeff Rekeweg. "DeJovaun is a special player, but a lot of other guys helped him. We talked about going' from representing your high school to representing the Fort Wayne area and the University of Saint Francis."
Sawyer-Davis, who was named the championship's most outstanding player, led all scorers with 22 points. The junior went 6-for-15 from the floor and also pulled down four rebounds. Edmonds added 14 points and five boards while Owens (11) and Morales-Soto (10) were also in double figures.
"One and dones were huge in the second half and Qadr made the biggest play of the game, grabbing that long board and getting out in transition," added Rekeweg. "What a game by both teams where one play made the difference. This took an incredible effort by the players, our entire coaching staff, and we had tremendous support from our fans that made the long trip down here to see this game."
Walsh was led by Jackson who recorded his fifth double-double with 16 points and 13 rebounds. Jeremy Shardo put in 13 while both Lamar Skeeter and Knight put in 10. The Cavs' held a 35-28 advantage on the glass but cooled off in the second half to just 36%, 46% for the game.