KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Talladega College’s last-second defensive stand in the waning seconds of overtime propelled the Tornadoes to a 78-77 win over Thomas More.
The Tornadoes improve to 32-5 while the Saints end their season at 31-5. Talladega will square off against Loyola (La.) in the National Championship in a rematch of the Southern States Athletic Conference championship. It marks the fourth time this season the teams will play. The championship will air at 7 p.m. Wednesday on ESPN3.
A last-second tip-in by Noah Pack in overtime was no good, sending the Tornadoes to the National Championship. Tied at 75-75 in overtime, Eli Howard found Edwin Louis for a three-point bucket with 46 seconds to play.
Talladega was whistled for a foul with 26 seconds to go and the Saints made two free throws. A second later, Jervay Green was fouled, but he missed the front end of a one-and-one. Thomas More secured the rebound. Ryan Batte missed a jumper with four seconds to play, but Noah Pack attempted a tip-in, but it was no good.
Talladega was led by Cam Potts’ 16 points and six assists. Edwin Louis came off the bench to hit for 15 points while Green chipped in 14 points, seven rebounds, and four assists. Darryl Baker and Amir Yusuf had eight points apiece, while Davion Thomas added six points.
Trailing 10-9, Potts hit a jumper. On the ensuing possession, Camron Reese took a pass from Green and converted a lay-up. Leading 15-12, Louis found Kamron Brice for a three-ball, giving the Tornadoes an 18-12 edge with 12:45 to play in the first half. A three-ball from Baker and a jumper from Potts pushed the advantage to double digits, 23-12.
The margin hovered around the double-digit barrier for most of the period. Leading 33-21, Louis hit a lay-up, as did Yusif, giving the designated visitors a 37-21 lead. Green’s lay-up with 15 11 ticks on the clock pushed it to 15, but Thomas More converted an old-fashioned three-point play just before the break, making it 39-27 at intermission.
The Saints whittled the margin to four at 48-44 with 12:15 to go. The home team made it a four-point game three more times, but a foul on a three-point attempt allowed Thomas More to pull within one after three charity tosses, 53-52.
The Tornadoes would not relinquish the lead, burying a three-ball from Thomas off a pass from Potts at the 7:25 mark. Potts found Darryl Baker on the next possession for another shot from downtown, giving the visitors some breathing room.
Leading 61-54 with just under 5:00 to play, Potts connected with Green for another three-point bucket. The shot extended the margin to double figures, 64-54.
The Saints embarked on a 12-2 run, knotting the game at 66-66 on a three-point basket with 46 ticks remaining.
With 32 seconds on the clock, Baker was fouled. He calmly hit a pair of charity tosses, giving Talladega a two-point lead, 68-66. Potts was whistled for a foul with two seconds remaining, and Thomas More was able to tie it on a pair of free throws, forcing overtime.
For the game, Talladega hit 31-of-53 from the floor (58.5 percent), including nine-of-19 from downtown (47.4 percent). The team snagged 28 rebounds and dished out 14 assists.
Talladega advances to the NAIA National Championship for the first time in school history. The last time an HBCU made the NAIA Championship was in 1987 when West Virginia State lost 79-77 to Washburn. Talladega is looking to become the first HBCU program since 1977 to win an NAIA Men’s Basketball National Championship. Texas Southern was the last, defeating Campbell, 71-44, in 1977. There have been 11 HBCU NAIA national champions in the tournament’s previous 83 years, with the first coming in 1953.
Courtesy: Talladega College