Southwestern spent most of Monday’s KCAC men’s basketball championship game trying to chase down York (Neb.), which led for a stretch of nearly 35 minutes.
York spent the game fending off Southwestern rallies that grew increasingly unlikely because York always had a response.
The final minutes tested which team that would take a greater toll on, and the answer was … neither. York tied the game on a three-pointer by Michael Johnson with 16 seconds to play, then prevailed in overtime 109-104.
Johnson, who had missed his previous five three-pointers accented the victory by York, the tournament’s No. 2 seed, with a breakaway dunk with 15 seconds to go.
York (24-9) earned an automatic bid into the NAIA Division II Tournament, joining KCAC regular-season champion Tabor. Southwestern rallied from a 13-point second half deficit and seemed to be closing in on victory with a four-point lead and 31 seconds to go.
But after a York basket, Southwestern’s DJ Wallace missed one of two free throws, leaving Southwestern ahead 91-88 and giving York a chance to tie. Michael Johnson’s three-pointer cashed in on that chance before Southwestern missed a tying basket in the final seconds.
York’s latest, biggest lead was 72-59 with 10:27 to go and it preceded five straight points by Southwestern, which never let its deficit become insurmountable. York, though, answered every challenged and maintained its eight-point lead through the under-four-minute timeout.
Southwestern scored 13 of the next 14 points to take a 90-86 lead into the final 30 seconds.
Overtime was even more frenetic. The teams combined to score on their first six possessions and the game remained tied, 98-98, two minutes in. Johnny Cooksey made a pair of free throws to put York ahead 105-102, and finally Southwestern had no answer.
Since the game didn’t often hinge on defensive superiority, a completion of Southwestern’s comeback seemed like a longshot. York was more athletic, a trait it used for offensive rebounds and a stronger post game led by forward Cameron Coleman, who had 20 points and 15 rebounds.
Southwestern guard Cameron Hunt juked a defender before assisting on a Jacob Horsch three-pointer, riling up the Moundbuilders’ fans, who chanted “Ankles” at the victim after halftime.
York capitalized most immediately on that energy by scoring the first eight points of the second half to go ahead 59-46. As always, Southwestern prevented a runaway with consecutive threes by Horsch, but York scored the next five points after that.
The comeback wasn’t put into full gear until Coleman fouled out with 1:56 to go. Southwestern made the two free throws that followed to tie it and the next four points to go ahead, but not for good.
York survived without its best inside player in overtime by controlling the perimeter. Johnny Cooksey made a key three-pointer and finished with 23 points, one of five double-figure scorers for York.
Hunt scored 36 for Southwestern and Wallace added 31.
SOUTHWESTERN: Wallace 9-18 13-18 31, Smith 0-0 0-0 0, Fisher 1-1 0-0 3, Horsch 6-11 0-0 18, Hunt 11-17 12-16 36, Hodge 0-1 0-0 0, Howard 2-3 0-0 4, Hunter 2-6 0-0 6, Hamm 0-0 2-2 2, McCoy 0-3 4-4 4. Totals 31-60 31-40 104.
YORK: Mack 5-12 2-3 15, Coleman 7-9 6-7 20, Lenear 2-5 0-0 5, Cooksey 7-18 6-8 23, Smith 2-7 0-0 6, Howe 2-5 2-3 6, Johnson 5-13 0-0 11, Malbrough 4-9 0-1 11, Tripplett 2-4 0-0 4, Dean 4-6 0-0 8. Totals 40-88 16-22 109.
Halftime—York 51-46. End of regulation—91-91. Three-point shooting—SW 11-23 (Horsch 6-11, Hunt 2-5, Hunter 2-5, Fisher 1-1, Hodge 0-1), York 13-35 (Mack 3-4, Cooksey 3-8, Malbrough 3-8, Smith 2-4, Lenear 1-4, Johnson 1-6, Tripplett 0-1). Rebounds—SW 34 (Wallace, Hunt 8), York 48 (Coleman 10). Total fouls—SW 20, York 29. Technicals—None. Steals—SW 5 (Horsch, Hunt, Howard, Hunter, Hamm), York 5 (Cooksey 2). Assists—SW 15 (Wallace 5), York 19 (Cooksey, Smith 5).