Graceland Wins First-Ever National Title
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – (Box Score) It took an extra five minutes, but it was well worth the wait, as No. 5 Graceland (Iowa) defeated No. 4 LSU Alexandria (La.), 83-80, in overtime to claim the programs first-ever Division I men’s basketball national title. The Yellowjackets’ Justin Harley connected on the game-winner as time expired in the final game of the 2018 NAIA Division I Men’s Basketball National Championship. The 81st annual national championship took place at Municipal Auditorium.
• Graceland improves to 29-10 on the season and is now 5-0 all-time at the national championship.
• The Yellowjackets are the first program – sixth overall – to claim the red banner in their rookie appearance in the championship.
• Graceland is the first team from the state of Iowa to win the national championship in the event’s 81-year history.
• LSU Alexandria ends the year with a 29-8 overall record. The Generals are now 8-4 all-time at the national championship.
• LSU Alexandria is in its fourth season of varsity competition.
• The national championship finale had an attendance of 6,377, which is the highest attended final since the tournament returned to Kansas City in 2002.
• Tonight’s overtime contest is the first since 2016 and the ninth all-time.
• Will Nelson – a Kansas City native – scored a team-high and career-best 30 points to lead the Yellowjackets. The junior forward ended the game 12-for-21 from the field, including a 4-of-5 effort from long range. He also added 12 rebounds – one board shy of tying a season-high.
• Graceland’s LT Davis, who was named the Chuck Taylor Most Valuable Player for the championship, chipped in 22 points and a game-high six assists.
• Jeremy Deemer added a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds for the Yellowjackets.
• LSU Alexandria’s Jordin Williams led all scorers with 31 points, while William Claiborne added 18 points.
• Brandon Moss, who entered the game averaging 19.0 points per game for the Generals, was limited to only seven points – only his third single-digit scoring game of the season.
HOW IT HAPPENED
• LSU Alexandria held a 15-11 lead early in the first half, however, an 11-4 run by Graceland made it a 22-19 advantage in favor of the Yellowjackets. Graceland ended the half with a 10-0 run, capped by a 3-pointer from Nelson.
• LSU Alexandria failed to score in the final 3:52 of the first half.
• Graceland was the dominant team to open the second half, as the Yellowjackets utilized a 10-2 run to claim their largest lead of the night, 53-40, with 13:28 left in regulation.
• However, LSU Alexandria refused to go away. The Generals answered with a 15-4 run of their own, sparked by a Williams’ 3-pointer, to cut their deficit to 57-55 at the 9:30 mark.
• The two sides traded baskets over the final nine minutes, including a runner in the lane from Nelson to tie the score, 72-72, with 12 seconds left. That basket sent the game into overtime.
INSIDE THE BOX SCORE
• Graceland was dominant on the boards, outrebounding the Generals, 49-31, for the game, which played a key role in the Yellowjackets owning a 10-3 advantage in second-chance points.
• The Yellowjackets ended the night shooting 46.6 percent (27-of-58) from the field, including 13 3-pointers.
• LSU Alexandria forced 20 Graceland turnovers. The Generals outscored Graceland, 24-8, off of turnovers.
• Overall, there were eight ties and 11 lead changes in the contest.
• LSU Alexandria did not score a field goal in the final 1:10 of the overtime.
HOW THEY SAW IT
Graceland head coach Craig Doty: “We are so proud of our student-athletes but this is much bigger than just basketball. This is about a university, a community, and an alumni base coming together and celebrating what higher education is all about. This roster was built organically, with a vision for those who care about each other, accept coaching, and want to be a part of a family environment. LT and I have been together for all three of our national championships. Is there a men’s college basketball player in the past thirty years who has won three national championships in their four years of eligibility other than LT Davis? The man is incredible. Jeremy Deemer, Will Nelson, Dalton Payton, Jordan Dembley, and Justin Harley, who hit the game-winning three, are all winners and incredible human beings. Our bench from top to bottom was committed to helping each other every possession. This is the toughest national tournament to win in all of college basketball as we had to win five games in six days to win it all. Thanks to my staff for staying up until 3 a.m. preparing scouting reports, thanks to my administration, and thanks to our students and fans, specifically our football team, who single-handedly changed the culture of our program from the stands.”
LSU Alexandria head coach Larry Cordaro: ”Tonight was an unbelievable game. Our players left it all on the court. I wish I could've done a little bit more to end it in regulation or get us to double overtime. That one shot does not define our season and the future is brighter than ever for LSUA basketball. We look forward to coming back and representing the Red River and our great fans next season. Credit Graceland, they deserve this win.”
LSU Alexandria (La.)
LSUA is appearing in its fourth-consecutive NAIA National Championship since their debut in 2015... They make history as this is their first time advancing to the finals at the national championship tournament... Throughout their program's short history, the Generals hold a 115-16 all-time win-loss record... They currently hold an 8-4 record in the national tournament... They are one of four teams from the Red River Athletic Conference to participate in this year's event.
The Yellowjackets are playing in their first NAIA Division I Men's Basketball National Championship and are 5-0 all-time in the national tournament...Graceland is one of four Heart of America Athletic Conference teams in this year's tournament field and one of two (along with William Penn (Iowa)) that advanced to the semifinals...Heart teams are 9-3 at the national tournament thus far...Graceland is 10-4 against national tournament teams this season...Graceland won its last 11 straight games, 12 of its last 13 and are 19-2 since Jan. 17... Jeremy Deemer finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds for his third-straight double-double in the tournament and 15th of the season...Deemer - who averaged 12 rebounds per game in the tournament - and Justin Harley played all 45 minutes for the Yellowjackets, who only used six players in the game...LT Davis finished the tournament averaging 23.6 points per game and made 18 three-pointers during Graceland's run through the tournament...Jeremy Nelson also averaged 19.2 points and 8.8 rebounds per contest for the Yellowjackets.
2018 NAIA DIVISION I MEN’S BASKETBALL NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP AWARDS
Stevie Clark, LSU Shreveport (La.)
Shadell Millinghaus, Georgetown (Ky.)
Terrell Thompson, William Penn (Iowa)
JC Washington, William Penn (Iowa)
Will Nelson, Graceland (Iowa)
Jeremy Deemer, Graceland (Iowa)
LT Davis, Graceland (Iowa)
Will Claiborne, LSU Alexandria (La.)
Jordin Williams, LSU Alexandria (La.)
Brandon Moss, LSU Alexandria (La.)
Chuck Taylor MVP: LT Davis, Graceland (Iowa)
Charles S. Stevenson Hustle Award: Dom Robinson, Montana Western
Dr. James Naismith-Emil S. Liston Team Sportsmanship Award: Montana State-Northern
Chuck Walden Memorial Award: Scott Thompson and Julia Robinson, Tricension
NABC Division I Player of the Year: Ryan Imhoff, Carroll (Mont.)
NAIA National Coach of the Year: Craig Doty, Graceland (Iowa)
NABC-NAIA Coach of the Year (must be NABC member): Kelvin Starr, The Master's (Calif.) -- announced March 13 at championship banquet