By Eric Montgomery | NAIA Media Relations
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – (Box Score) (Video Highlights) No. 6-seeded Dalton State (Ga.) completed its first-ever appearance in the 2015 Buffalo Funds-NAIA Division I Men’s Basketball National Championship in undefeated fashion, claiming the title game with a 71-53 win over Westmont (Calif.).
“To win it in our first year being able to participate is really special,” said Dalton State head coach Tony Ingle. “This is our team. This is the town of Dalton’s team. I wanted everyone to be able to come together and take pride in what we are doing.”
Championship Most Valuable Player Jordan Bowling led all scorers with 18 points for Dalton State (32-4), converting eight-of-his-11 shots from the field to go along with seven rebounds. Anthony Hilliard chipped in with 14 points, four assists and three rebounds, while Preston Earle added 13 points and Ladaris Green grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds.
“Right now, the feeling may hit me tomorrow,” said Bowling. “I’m just so glad to do this with my brothers. We all hang out and just love each other. It’s so much fun sharing this moment with them.”
Westmont was able to settle its nerves first and jumped out to a 10-2 lead less than five minutes into the game. Cory Blau scored eight-straight points after the opening bucket by Sean Harman. Dalton State went almost five minutes between its first and second field goals, a drought ended when Bowling scored at the 14:53 mark.
Bowling added seven more points over the next five minutes to bring the Roadrunners back even at 13-13, followed by a second tie a minute later after Jamaine Burrey answered a bucket by Blau. The field goal by Burrey opened up the final 8:32 of the half that proved to be the difference in the game. The Roadrunners finished the half outscoring the Warriors, 22-6, including an 11-2 spurt over the final 2:25 to take a 37-21 lead into intermission.
Westmont hit just one of 11 three-point attempts in the first half (.091) and shot 32.1 percent overall (9 for 28). Dalton State hit 15 of 30 field goals (.500), including five three-point attempts, while both teams hit two free throws.
The Warriors chipped away at the deficit to start the second half, holding the Roadrunners to a single field goal through the first 7:07 after halftime. Nate Marsing drained a three-point shot at the 12:53 mark to make it 40-31.
Bowling provided a much-needed three-pointer on the next possession for Dalton State, but Westmont continued to trim points off its deficit. Following a bucket by Bowling with 6:45 to play, Blau converted inside before two free throws by David Gunn brought the Warriors within six at the 6:02 mark.
Sean Tate hit the last of eight three-point shots for the Roadrunners after the free throws by Gunn, a basket that proved to signal the final momentum swing of the game. Anthony Hilliard pushed the lead back into double digits with a basket on the next Dalton State possession, and the Roadrunners led by at least 10 points for the final 3:47 after two free throws by Williams briefly cut the Westmont deficit to nine.
“This is an incredible accomplishment by a team that has been the underdog throughout this entire tournament,” said Westmont head coach John Moore. “I am overwhelmed with pride for this group of men. They are a class act.”
Blau led the way for Westmont with 17 points to go along with three rebounds and two assists. Marsing and Gunn tallied eight points and four rebounds apiece, while Harman and Britton Williams each chipped in with seven points and three assists.
Westmont finished its season with a record of 25-11.
General Championship Notes
• Dalton State, the 78th annual winner, signifies the 54th different national champion since the championship tournament began in 1937.
• Both Dalton State and Westmont made their first-ever appearance in the national championship final.
• After the win tonight, the Roadrunners become the first team playing in its first national championship tournament to hoist the red banner since Charleston (S.C.) did it in 1983.
• The state of Georgia has now won five national titles: Dalton State in 2015; Life in 1997, 1999 and 2000; West Georgia in 1974.
• With two championship game newcomers facing off, this marks the second-straight year when two rookies were in the title game and third since 2009. Last year, Vanguard (Calif.) defeated Emmanuel (Ga.) by a 70-65 score.
• The Golden State Athletic Conference (GSAC) and Southern States Athletic Conference (SSAC) were again sending representatives to the title bout – the same conference match-up occurred last year.
• With Westmont representing the GSAC in the championship final, it marks the eighth time since 2003 and fourth time in the last six years that a GSAC program played in the title contest. The conference falls to 3-5 in the title game during that stretch with Concordia (Calif.) winning it all in 2003 and 2012 and Vanguard earning the banner last year.
• Dalton State is the second-straight team from the SSAC to play in the title game. The Roadrunners are just the third team in the 16-year history of the SSAC to reach the national championship final, joining former member Emmanuel (2014) and Faulkner (Ala.) (2001) – Faulkner won it all in 2001.
• Dalton State becomes the third-straight No. 6 seed to reach the championship final. SAGU (Texas) lost in the title game as the sixth seed in 2013, while No. 6 seed Vanguard won it all last year.
• Westmont, an unseeded program, is the first unseeded team to reach the championship title game since 2011 when Pikeville (Ky.) won the trophy.
No. 6 seed Dalton State (Ga.) (32-4)
• Dalton State improves to 5-0 all-time in the national championship in its first appearance.
• The basketball program is in its second-year of varsity existence and first year being championship eligible. The squad wrapped up its second-year with a 58-8 record.
• With 32 wins on the season, Dalton State becomes the fifth team in the last six years to win the title with 30-or-more wins.
• Jordan Bowling, the team’s leading scorer on the year, rebounded from a two-point effort on Monday to finish with 18 tonight.
• Bowling was named the Championship MVP after averaging 17.0 points in five contests.
• Head coach Tony Ingle wins his second college basketball national championship. In 2004, he coached NCAA Division II Kennesaw State (Ga.) to a title.
• As a team, the Roadrunner made more free throws (91) during this championship than the opponents attempted (76).
Westmont (Calif.) (25-11):
• Now moves to 21-17 in 17 all-time national championship trips.
• Prior to tonight, the Warriors never advanced past the semifinal round.
• The 53 points scored by Westmont is the fewest scored by a runner-up since Wisconsin-Stevens Point’s 46 in 1984 in overtime.
• Faced a No. 6 seed for the second time in school history: the previous occurrence was an 88-75 loss against Birmingham-Southern (Ala.) in the 1996 championship first round.
• Entered the game leading all tournament teams in field goal percentage shooting (.521) – tonight, the club shot just 30.0 percent (18-of-60).
• Held four-of-five opponents in the championship tournament under 70 points.
• Cory Blau led or tied the team in scoring in four-of-five games during the championship, including 17 tonight. He averaged 16.8 points, including a tournament-high 25 in the quarterfinal win on Saturday.
• The team’s second-leading scorer (13.9) and leading rebounder (7.2), Daniel Carlin played just three minutes tonight. He was hampered by a stomach flu.
Daniel Carlin, Westmont (Calif.)
Britton Williams, Westmont (Calif.)
Jordan Bowling, Dalton State (Ga.)
Preston Earle, Dalton State (Ga.)
Matt Green, Hope International (Calif.)
Kenny Morgan, Hope International (Calif.)
Julian Camper, Cal State San Marcos
Semar Farris, Mid-America Christian (Okla.)
Kenny Manigault, Pikeville (Ky.)
Shondel Stewart, Talladega (Ala.0
Chuck Taylor Most Valuable Player Award: Jordan Bowling, Dalton State (Ga.)
Charles Stevenson Hustle Award: Britton Williams, Westmont (Calif.)
Dr. James Naismith-Emil S. Liston Sportsmanship Award: Westmont (Calif.)
Charles A. Krigel Award*: John Moore, Westmont (Calif.)
Chuck Walden Memorial Trophy (given to Honorary Coaches of championship team): Kansas Gas Service
Frank Cramer Award^: Lowell Pitzer, American Midwest Conference
2014 - 15 NAIA Division I Men's Basketball Player of the Year: Kenny Manigault, Pikeville (Ky.)
2014 - 15 Rawlings-NAIA Division I Men's Basketball Coach of the Year: Tony Ingle, Dalton State (Ga.)
2014 - 15 NABC-NAIA Division I Men's Basketball Coach of the Year: Keith Adkins, Campbellsville (Ky.)
* given to coach of the team that best exhibits respect, civility, integrity and fair play, the qualities that define sportsmanship
^ presented annually to the person or persons who has done the most for the basketball tournament during a period of years