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Mary Hardin-Baylor overcame a 12-point deficit to stun top-ranked St. Thomas on Saturday.
JOHN WIMMER | Special to The Roanoke Times
Mary Hardin-Baylor’s Kitrick Bell scores two of his 14 points in the Crusaders’ victory over St. Thomas on Saturday.
Saturday, March 23, 2013
Don “The Bear” Haskins was known for his teams’ strong defense at Texas Western and later Texas El-Paso.
The late coaching legend would have adored what went down Saturday night at the Salem Civic Center.
Mary Hardin-Baylor coach Ken DeWeese, an assistant from 1974-80 under Haskins at UTEP, saw his defense lock down favored St. Thomas (Minn.) to rally from a 12-point deficit in the final 9 1⁄2 minutes and pull a 74-67 stunner in Saturday’s semifinals of the NCAA Division III men’s basketball tournament.
“I don’t know anything compared to him,” said DeWeese of Haskins. “But I think he had something to do with this.”
Spurred by stifling defensive work that also ignited their offense, the unranked Crusaders (27-5) ended the season for the No. 1-ranked Tommies (30-2). The victory vaulted Mary Hardin-Baylor into the April 7 national title game in Atlanta, where it will face Amherst (Mass.) College.
“It’s the most exciting feeling in the world,’’ junior forward Kitrick Bell said. “We’ve worked so hard the entire year and to finally to make it where we wanted to go the entire year feels great.”
Looking like it was dead in the water with 9:20 to go, DeWeese’s bunch outscored the shocked Tommies 30-11 the rest of the way. Mary Hardin-Baylor’s offense, which had produced three field goals in a 17-minute stretch spanning the first and second halves, finally ignited after its defense starting making stops and producing turnovers.
“You’ve got to defend to win,” DeWeese said. “Still, you’ve got to score. We defended them so well that it gave us confidence on the other end. We got a couple of stops and we went to the other end and made a couple of shots and felt a little better. I think I counted about seven or nine stops in which we went down and scored.
“We were never efficient offensively until then. Then I think we got some confidence and said ‘we can get this done.”
Senior wing Cory Meals, who had done nothing offensively until the late spurt, nailed a couple of 3-pointers in the final 4:50. The second one turned into a four-point play that put the Texans in front 63-62 with 2:31 left.
“I just shot ‘em down,” Meals said.
And felled the giant.
“There’s no reason to think just because they’re ranked No. 1 that they’ve already got us beat,” he said.
With his team leading 68-67 and :20 left, senior wing Thomas Orr made the biggest play of the game, stripping the ball away from St. Thomas guard Noah Kaiser. Orr took the rock to the basket on the other end and got fouled by Kaiser. Orr then made both free throws to make it 70-67.
After Kaiser misfired on a 3-pointer on St. Thomas’ next possession, Orr drained two more free throws with 4 seconds left to seal it.
“It was real important, we were down one and they had possession,” Orr said of his strip. “They probably could have taken the last shot if I didn’t get that steal. It obviously changed the game.”
James Allen’s 21 points led five players scoring in double figures for the winners, who won despite shooting 36.4 percent from the field. A 27-for-34 showing at the free-throw line was key. Seventeen turnovers that led to the winners’ 25-8 edge in points scored off miscues didn’t help.
“This is a tough one to swallow,” said St. Thomas coach John Tauer, whose team saw a 14-game winning streak snapped.
“Credit them. They made some big 3s. They had 17 offensive rebounds. We didn’t take of the ball like we did most of year. Turnovers were problematic.”
MARY HARDIN-BAYLOR (27-5)
Orr 3-8 4-4 11, Todd 1-6 0-2 2, Allen 5-16 8-10 19, Bell 5-9 3-4 14, Meals 3-11 3-5 12, Zinsmeister 2-2 9-9 14, Chaney 1-2 0-0 2, Green 0-1 0-0 0, Totals 20-55 27-34 74.
ST. THOMAS (30-2)
Tengwall 3-4 2-2 11, DeBerg 6-12 4-4 21, Nance 0-3 3-5 3, Riedeman 4-6 0-1 8, T. Hannon 6-8 3-6 15, Alipate 0-3 2-2 2, Tillman 1-1 0-0 2, Kaiser 0-2 1-2 1, Pella 1-1 0-0 2, Nord 0-3 2-4 2, Totals 21-44 17-26 67.
Halftime – St. Thomas 38-33. 3-point goals – MHB 7-20 (Meals 3-7, Orr 1-5, Allen 1-5, Bell 1-1, Zinsmeister 1-1, Chaney 0-1), ST 82-1 (DeBerg 5-8, Tengwall 3-3, Alipate 0-3, Nance 0-2, Riedeman 0-2, Kaiser 0-2, Montero 0-1). Rebounds – MHB 34 (3 with 7), ST 34 (T. Hannon 15). Assists – MHB 6 (Zinsmeister 3), ST 15 (Nord 4). Turnovers – MHB 9 (Allen 4), ST 17 (Kaiser 6). Steals – MHB 11 (Zinsmeister 4), ST 2 (2 with 1). Total fouls – MHB 21, ST 23. Fouled out – Todd, Riedeman, T. Hannon. A – 2,496.