Anthony Cammon’s basket with just under a minute to go put The Master’s College in front to stay and helped to stave off a furious rally by Truett-McConnell as the Mustangs edged the Bears 71-66 in a consolation-round game at the NCCAA National Tournament in Winona Lake, Indiana.
The victory propelled the Mustangs (20-15) into the consolation bracket championship game Friday where they will tangle with Trevecca Nazarene of Tennessee at 2:00pm PDT. In addition, the victory secured sixth-year Coach Chuck Martin’s first 20-win season at the college.
Cammon’s basket with 59 seconds left on the clock broke a 65-all deadlock, one that was produced on the strength of a 12-0 run by the Bears in a 3:40 span that led to a near-collapse by the Mustangs who had controlled the tempo of the second half up until that time.
Unlike the night before when the Mustangs couldn’t convert from the charity stripe late in a loss to Southwestern Assemblies of God, they put this game away at the line, hitting four free throws in the last 30 seconds.
That saved them from blowing their second large lead of the evening. The first came in the opening period when the Mustangs, fueled by seven points from Cammon, ripped off 12 consecutive points, turning a two-point deficit into a 16-6 lead with 12:30 remaining in the half. Cammon’s three-pointer got things going and Richard LaFleur completed the assault with a bucket in the paint.
Just over a minute later (11:11), they enjoyed their second 10-point (20-10) cushion of the evening on another inside basket, this one from Jon Hogan. That margin proved to be short-lived, however, as the Bears tore into the deficit, scoring 10 of the game’s next 12 points in a two-minute window to close to 22-20 at the 8:29 mark.
The Mustangs answered with a Hogan three-pointer and a Leif Karlberg bucket to up the lead to seven points but the Bears duplicated that, pulling to within 27-25 on a Bernard Nugent hoop with 4:59 left.
They didn’t stop there, either. Following a Chris Patureau basket (29-25), the Bears rattled off six straight points to take their first lead since the opening two minutes and the clubs went to halftime knotted at 33.
That late surge by the Bears and a halftime talk from Martin produced the desired effects in the opening minutes of the second half as the Mustangs came out with a vengeance. A basket in the lane by Devin Dyer 31 seconds into action regained the lead for the Mustangs and ignited a 17-1 skein over the first 4:42 that propelled them in front 50-34 with 15:18 left to play.
Dyer tallied the first six points of the run while Cammon capped it off with a basket and a pair of free throws. That lead looked pretty safe with the way the club was shooting and defending, and they were still up 52-38 on a LaFleur bucket with 12:48 remaining.
The Bears started to make some inroads into the deficit, closing to 52-43 on an Anthony Dorsey free throw at the 11:25 mark but the Mustangs countered with two Karlberg free throws and a Lance Reeves triple, boosting the lead back into double digits at 57-45 with 9:17 left.
The margin dipped under ten points (59-50, 61-53) twice over the next three minutes but the Mustangs answered each time and when Cammon scored with 5:26 remaining, the lead and the win looked to be secure at 65-53.
But, looks can be deceiving and in this case they were. It seemed like from out of nowhere, the Bears suddenly struck defending successfully on one end while starting to hit their shots on the other. Conversely, the Mustangs almost stopped playing, even having difficulty inbounding the ball on several occasions.
That led to the 12-0 burst that turned a seemingly easy victory into a very precarious situation. However, that’s when Cammon, who poured in a team-high 20 points, came to the rescue and led the club to the win.
The senior guard did his damage on 8-18 shooting while Hogan came off the bench to tally 11 points. Brown paced the Mustangs’ 47-38 advantage on the boards, taking down a game-high 14 rebounds while scoring nine points.