by Matt Bos, NAIA Media Coordinator
Point Lookout, Mo.— (Box Score) No. 7 Taylor (Ind.) stormed out to a 20-point lead and then held off a furious second-half rally to record the biggest upset of the championship to date, holding off No.2 Warner (Fla.) 73-67.
Taylor, one of the final at-large teams in the 32-team field, earned its first win at the championship in 10 years. The Trojans last qualified in 2006 where they lost to Lindenwood (Mo.) in the second round.
The Trojans used efficiency on offense and a tremendous effort on the defensive end to roll out to a 20-point lead in the first half. Taylor limited Warner to just 28% shooting in first half, well below their season average.
A three-pointer and jumper by Warner big-man Adam Giger put the Royals within 15 by the break, 38-23.
Ryan Robinson knocked down a three-pointer to give Taylor its largest lead (46-25) and the Trojans still held a 16-point edge, 65-49, with under six minutes left. Warner stormed back, however, with an 18-6 run, beginning with a Giger three-pointer and ending with a jumper by Warren Hall to make it a two-possession game, 71-67, with 39 seconds left. After a Taylor turnover, Warner missed on two chances to get it closer during the closing seconds and free throws by Trojans guard Eric Cellier made the score final.
Four Taylor players scored in double figures, led by Keaton Hendricks with 15 points. Mason Degenkolb contributed 13 points and six boards and Tim Fleming (11) and Cellier (10) were the other top scorers.
Warner, representing The Sun Conference, was led by Giger with 18 points. Both Denzel Osson and Hall scored 14 for the Royals, who end the season with a 26-5 record.
Taylor advances to Friday’s second round action with a 21-11 record. They will play either No.3 Trinity International or No.6 College of Ozarks. For more information on the national championship, click here. To watch the live video stream, go to NAIANetwork.com.