Bison claim NAIA basketball title
KANSAS CITY, MO.—National Champions!
For the first time in 44 years, Oklahoma Baptist University is the crown jewel of the NAIA as winners of the national men’s basketball championship, 84-83, over Azusa Pacific March 23 in Municipal Auditorium.
Head Coach Doug Tolin and his team held the big red banner at midcourt in a scene that OBU hadn’t celebrated since Al Tucker and Coach Bob Bass defeated Georgia Southern in 1966.
After falling behind for the fourth time in as many games, OBU got the big basket, a big defensive stop and a celebration they won’t forget.
The Bison trailed by five with 90 seconds left in the game, but Tournament MVP Nate Brumfield scored in the paint to make it 83-80 with 1:22 to go. Azusa Pacific missed the front end of a one-and-one, Brumfield got the rebound and Kevin Swinton was fouled with 42 seconds to play.
Swinton, who was in pain throughout the game after an injury, was unable to go to the free throw line and APU selected Hawkins to take the free throws.
Hawkins made the first free throw and missed the second, but the rebound went off the hand of an APU player and Brumfield chased it down in the corner, flung it out to Hawkins who smoothly dropped in a three-point shot for an 84-83 lead with 40 seconds on the clock.
“I think Nate came from the other side of the lane to get that rebound,” Tolin said. “Last night he made the game winning shot and tonight he goes and gets the rebound and makes the pass to A.J. to win it. Last night, A.J. got the ball to him for the game-winner and tonight it was the other way around. That’s what good teams do.”
A pass out of bounds gave the ball back to OBU, but the Bison would miss two free throws to give APU one more chance. Dominique Johnson missed near the free throw line and Marshall Johnson got the offensive rebound, but the game clock ticked down to zero with the ball still in his hands. His late shot went through the net and forced a quick look at the replay that delayed the celebration for just a few anxious seconds.
After the official waved off the shot a second time, the Bison celebrated their first national men’s basketball championship since 1966.
Azusa shot 54 percent from the field in the first half and hit five of nine three-pointers to get out to a 47-40 lead after the Cougars had led by as many as eight in the half.
The Bison scored the first nine points of the second half as Garrett Steinmetz drained a three-pointer, Brumfield scored down low, Hawkins scored and Steinmetz got a steal and two free throws for a 49-47 OBU lead.
There were nine lead changes from there. OBU didn’t slow down the shooting percentage of APU, which shot 56 percent in the second half, but the Bison forced seven second-half turnovers and shot 63 percent from the field in the second stanza.
“We told them in the locker room, that ‘Hey, this isn’t as bad as it has been and we haven’t even played well,” Tolin said. “We got fired up and got out to a quick start in the second half and it was back and forth after that.”
Hawkins led the Bison with 21 points, including a seven-of-seven performance from the field in the second half. Kevin Swinton added 19, Brumfield had 15, Steinmetz 14 and Tim Bowman 10.
Swinton and Hawkins joined Brumfield on the All-Tournament Team.
The game was the last for seniors Brumfield, Hawkins, Steinmetz, Tyler Parker and Mirko Vojinovic and a new standard for Jerrod Tillmon, Emmanuel Wilson, Tim Bowman, Heath McKay, Hayden Blessing, Jake Duvall and Danny Derry as well as coaches Kyle Tolin and Justin Williams.
The win gives OBU its second NAIA national championship in men’s basketball and the first since Al Tucker led the Bison to the 1966 crown in the middle of a three-year run of championship game appearances.
The celebration included photos, hugs and a raucous round of the OBU cheer ‘Ka-Rip’ by the more than 250 students and staff from OBU who made the trip. It also included a call to Tolin from Gov. Brad Henry.
The win also comes at a time, for the Tolin family, when something glorious was much-needed. Doug’s daughter, Christie, lost a son just days before he was to be born between the conference and national tournaments. The tragedy isn’t offset by the championship, Coach Tolin said.
“It’s been very deep valleys and very high peaks,” Tolin said. “It’s been a hard week or two. It was good that Christie got to be here and (her husband) Gavin was able to make it.”
The Bison leave Kansas City with the banner and the record for national tournament victories in tow, now at 54. Having entered the tournament tied with first-round casualty Georgetown, that record will be OBU’s for at least another season.
The red banner heading back to Shawnee joins another 2010 NAIA championship banner bound for the Noble Complex. The Lady Bison track team won the national indoor championship earlier this month.