Game Recap By Mason Nesbitt, TMU Sports Information Director
KANSAS CITY, Missouri — For the second time in as many years here, a Mustang barreled to the rim in the closing seconds and scored a game-tying basket, only for the opposition to land a jarring counterpunch. This time no overtime was necessary.
TMU’s Hansel Atencia drove into the paint, hung in midair and tossed the ball in from an impossible angle with 3.9 seconds remaining Thursday.
The University of Science and Arts’ Hutch Peterson sprinted the other way, jumped off one foot and buried a three-pointer at the horn, spilling his teammates onto the court in mad celebration.
The play was reviewed but ultimately upheld, and the Mustangs fell, 78-75, in the first round of the NAIA Division 1 tournament inside Municipal Auditorium.
The loss ended a season in which TMU (27-6), a No. 2 seed, won its second consecutive Golden State Athletic Conference regular season title and third straight conference tournament title, a GSAC record.
The Mustangs are 83-14 over the last three seasons, a fact that didn’t immediately take the edge off another early exit, this one at the hands of the seventh-seeded Drovers (21-10).
“Last year was a shock,” said junior Tim Soares, who finished with 20 points and 13 rebounds. “This year felt even worse, I would say, because of the way we we’re built and we’d already had this experience and no one wanted to experience it again. It’s not good emotions.”
A year ago, Lawrence Russell traveled the length of the floor in the final five seconds, scoring at the buzzer to send TMU’s first round game against Peru State to overtime.
The Mustangs lost by two.
In both cases, Master’s had to make up ground.
The Mustangs trailed by two at halftime Thursday and by as many as 13 in the second period as they struggled to knock down shots.
Master’s made 1-of-13 three-point tries in the first half and 4-of-24 in the game.
Still, the Mustangs clawed back into the game.
Master’s went on a 22-7 run, limiting the Drovers’ dribble penetration and getting out in transition, to take a 60-58 lead with 5:35 on the clock. Minutes later, the Drovers answered with a 9-1 run that gave them a six-point lead with a minute to play.
The deficit at four, Brock Gardner (24 points) hit a three-pointer from the shoulder with 17 seconds left to pull TMU within one.
After the Drovers split two free throws, Atencia set the ill-fated final sequence in motion with his difficult basket. The senior finished with 11 points.
“I’m proud of the fight in them,” said TMU coach Kelvin Starr. “We didn’t have our best stuff at all. We shot the ball very poorly, obviously. Things didn’t go our way, but we fought all the way to the end, and even the last layup Hansel made to tie it up was indicative of his toughness. It’s just hard to go out on a buzzer beater.”
After the game, the Mustangs sat in the locker room for more than 30 minutes, each underclassmen talking about relationships forged with the team’s three seniors — Atencia, Delewis Johnson (11 points) and Keegan Scott.
“It shows how real this team is,” said Gardner, who made 4-of-5 three-pointers and 8-of-11 shots in all.
Dedrian Parmer scored 25 points to lead the Drovers, who will play Wiley College in the round of 16 Friday night.