Belton (March 2, 2012) -- The Trinity University men’s basketball used red-hot first half shooting to take control of the game early and then the Tigers fought off a late Mary Hardin-Baylor charge with a three-pointer in the final seconds to stun the host Cru in an NCAA Division III National Championships First Round Game Friday night in Belton. Trinity improves to 21-8 on the year and advances to tomorrow’s Second Round Game against Whitworth University with the victory. The loss ends UMHB’s season at 25-3.
Trinity shot a blistering 57 percent from three-point range in the first half and hit 58 percent overall to build a 46-35 halftime lead. The Cru battled back to within six points early in the second half before the Tigers took the lead back to double digits at 57-46 with 11:42 remaining. UMHB responded with a 13-2 run to tie the game at 59 on a James Allen three-pointer with 7:09 to go. The Cru took a three point lead on Kitrick Bell’s basket and a Sterling Phillips free-throw with 5:10 on the clock. Zach Lambert’s three tied the game again at 62 and the two teams traded the lead twice down the stretch before Brian Todd and Robert Kitzinger traded free-throws to leave the Cru clinging to a 66-65 lead with 1:55 to play. UMHB would get a pair of offensive rebounds in the final 1:30, but could not turn those into points. Ryan Beall then hit the dagger, bouncing home a three-pointer high off the rim to put Trinity on top 68-66 with 17 seconds left. UMHB would play for one final shot, but Allen’s runner in the lane was off the mark and William Young pulled down the board and ran out the clock to preserve the Tiger victory.
Lambert led Trinity with 24 points on 10-15 shooting from the field. Beall added 18 points and 10 rebounds and Kitzinger chipped in 14 more for the Tigers. Trinity shot 46 percent for the game and only hit two three-pointers in the second half after burying 8-14 in the first half.
Cory Meals led UMHB with 11 points, all of them coming in the first half. Greg Wiernas added 10 points and Marlon Miller had eight points and eight assists for the Cru. UMHB shot just 41 percent from the field and was 8-26 from three-point range. The Cru also missed 10 free throws, nine of them in the second half.
UMHB closes the year by losing its final two games after starting the season 25-1. The game also closed out the careers of UMHB seniors Michael Archa, Damian Davis, Marlon Miller, Sterling Phillips and Greg Wiernas. Trinity has now won 12 straight games and will meet Whitworth with a berth in the NCAA Sectional Tournament on the line.