Concordia ends Shorter's tournament run, tops Hawks 81-67
By Matt Green
KANSAS CITY – They were 40 minutes away from a shot at the national title, but for the Shorter Hawks, the dream ride came to an end one game too early.
Austin Simon and Cameron Gliddon scored 19 points each and fourth-seeded Concordia (Calif.) scored an 81-67 upset of No. 1-ranked and top-seeded Shorter in the first of two semifinals at the 2012 NAIA Division I Men's Basketball Championship on Monday night in Kansas City.
The Eagles (30-7) advance to Tuesday night's national championship game against the winner of the matchup between No. 2 Oklahoma Baptist and No. 11 Mountain State. Shorter, which had its 10-game winning streak snapped with the loss, ends its season at 34-3.
"I'm so proud of our guys and of the season that they have had, but tonight we were not the better team," said Shorter head coach Chad Warner, whose team was one of two in this year's tournament field to reach the Fab Four in its first national tournament appearance. "Concordia is a hot team right now and they played fantastic. I was proud that we were able to cut it to one in the second half, but we couldn't get over the hump."
Concordia set the tone early with a fast start and then withstood a furious rally from the Hawks in the second half to secure a title game berth.
The Eagles led by 10 at halftime and started the second half with a flurry, taking their largest lead of 47-32 on a 3 by Simons at the 18:11 mark. Shorter outscored Concordia 26-12 over the next 12:52, finally pulling to within 59-58 on C.J. Davis' driving layup with 5:19 to go, but the Eagles responded with an 11-0 spurt capped by Dakota Downs' tip in with the 2:55 mark that made it 70-58. Shorter never got the deficit under 10 from that point.
Concordia won the battle of the boards 47-31 and made eight 3-pointers, four of which came from Gliddon, who hit three first half treys on his way to 12 first half points that helped the Eagles to a 38-28 lead at the break. Gliddon made a 3 and three free throws after being fouled on a long range attempt as Concordia jumped out to a 23-10 lead after a 6-0 run concluded by a Downs bucket.
Shorter struggled from the field early and never really got going offensively. The Hawks shot 39 percent for the game, but made only 2 of 12 from 3-point range. Walter Hill had both of those long range makes, the first of which put Shorter up 3-2 within the first two minutes of the game, Shorter's only lead on the night.
Davis paced Shorter with 21 points and Hill added 18. Those were the only two Shorter players in double figures as the Eagles held Anthony Banks, the Southern States Athletic Conference Tournament Most Valuable Player, to six points on 2-for-8 shooting.
Downs finished with a double-double of 16 points and 13 rebounds for Concordia, which was making its first appearance in the Fab Four since 2007. The Eagles went 23-for-24 from the foul line and ended the game shooting 40 percent.
Despite the loss, Shorter's season is one for the record books.
Shorter's 34 wins are a school record and its rise to the nation's No. 1 ranking – a title the Hawks held for five of 12 weeks – was its first time ever at the top of the polls. Shorter won its first conference title since 1977, won its first-ever SSAC Tournament and made its first trip to the national tournament, winning its first three games to get to the national semifinals for the first time.
Warner picked up his 100th career win along the way, as well as SSAC and NABC National Coach of the Year honors and Hill, who surpassed 1,000 points for his career early in the season, was named the SSAC Player of the Year, giving Shorter's its first sweep of the league's two major awards.
"For me, this team has been such a bright light in my life," said Warner. "To see records broken are special, but hopefully we are taking steps towards becoming better men serving an even better God.
"I hope that the Shorter and Rome communities know how much we appreciated the support. It was humbling and overwhelming."