Preview: No. 1 Shorter, No. 4 Concordia battle for title game berth
By Matt Green
No. 1 Shorter (34-2) vs. No. 4 Concordia (28-7)
Monday, March 19 • 7 pm ET • Municipal Auditorium
KANSAS CITY – They've won pretty, they've won ugly – at this point they don't care how they do it, all the Shorter Hawks want to do is win.
And if they win their next game, the Hawks will have a chance to play for a national championship.
That's what is on the line for the Shorter men's basketball program on Monday night at 7 pm ET as the No. 1-ranked and top-seeded Hawks square off with fourth-seeded Concordia (Calif.) in the first of two national semifinals in the 2012 NAIA Division I Men's Basketball National Championship from Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City.
A victory over the Eagles (28-7) and Shorter (34-2) will advance to Tuesday night's national championship game against the winner of Monday's second semifinal between No. 2 Oklahoma Baptist and No. 11 Mountain State.
"Everyone's nerves are great and we are just trying to approach this game the same way we have every other game this season," said Shorter head coach Chad Warner, whose Hawks have gone 3-0 so far in their first national tournament appearance to stand 40 minutes away from a shot at history. "Up until this point we have taken things one day at a time and this situation is no different. The stakes tomorrow are no different than they were when we first got here – it has been win or go home since the first day of the tournament."
The Hawks have gotten to this point by displaying their depth, versatility and an insatiable hunger to win.
First, its depth; Shorter has had three different players lead the team in scoring through three tournament games. C.J. Davis scored 27 in the first round win over Life, Anthony Banks had 30 points and 15 boards to lead Shorter over Point Loma Nazarene in the Sweet 16 and Walter Hill went for 18 points and nine rebounds in the quarterfinal victory over Rogers State.
Next, its versatility; The Hawks have won with a fast-paced style, scoring 105 and 92 points, respectively, in the wins over Life and Point Loma, and had to grind out a half court war to beat Rogers State 63-60 on Saturday.
Finally, its hunger; Shorter has shown that it can come from behind, rallying from an 11 point deficit with 13 minutes to go against Rogers State, a feat that improved the Hawks to 6-1 this season when trailing at halftime.
"Every tournament game and the experience you get from those games is important," Warner said. "But we are trying to rely on the last 36 games. We have to play Shorter basketball whether things are going well or not, and that means we have to attack, be aggressive on both ends of the floor and worry about doing what we do well."
As has been the case throughout the national tournament, Shorter faces a different type of challenge in Concordia, the Golden State Athletic Conference regular season champion that is making its first trip to the Fab Four since 2007.
The Eagles are the epitome of balance with five players averaging double figures on the season. Athletic wing Austin Simon paces Concordia at 15 points a game and is coming off a 17-point performance in the Eagles' blowout of No. 12 LSU Shreveport in the quarterfinals.
Concordia is one of the country's top 3-point shooting teams, knocking down over 37 percent of its long range attempts, and has a bruiser inside in 6-foot-10, 260-pound center Tommy Granado, who ranks third on the team in scoring (12.4 ppg) while pulling down 6.7 rebounds a game.
"Concordia is very balanced, well coached and they play hard," said Warner. "They do all of the things you have to do in order to be a special team. We look at this as an honor to have the chance to play such a great program and we will do whatever we can to slow them down."
Fans can follow the game on 95.7 WATG-FM The Ridge or by accessing the live webcast available via the link titled "LISTEN to Hawk Athletics" under FAN ZONE on the Shorter Athletics website. Live stats are available via Dakstats.