Posted: March 18, 2015
[ SOURCE: ocregister.com ]
By NEWS SERVICE REPORTS
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The top-seeded Hope International men’s basketball team survived a scare before edging West Virginia Tech, 70-67, in a first-round game at the NAIA Division 1 National Championships on Wednesday.
Matt Green scored 20 points, Kenny Morgan had 17 (14 after halftime) and Garrett Neilan added 15 points and six rebounds for Hope (30-2). Carlton Hayes had seven points and a team-high 12 rebounds.
GSAC champion Hope, which has reached the Sweet 16 the past two seasons, had its hands full with a WVT program (23-10) that hadn’t played in the 32-team event since 1988.
Neither team led by more than four points in the final 8:23, and WVT’s Eddie Gordon made a 3-pointer with 4.7 seconds left to cut Hope’s lead to 68-67. WVT was forced to foul, and Green made a pair of free throws, then Gordon’s attempt at a tying 3-pointer clanged off the backboard at the buzzer.
“At the free-throw line in the closing seconds, it was a little tough but I knew I had to make those free throws to secure the win,” Green said. “I just came up there with confidence and just tried to stay poised as much as possible and thankfully I was able to knock both of them down.”
“We felt real fortunate to come out with this one,” Hope coach Bill Czech said. “WVU Tech is a very tough, physical, and aggressive team. We communicated well and came through some adverse situations with Kenny Morgan getting in foul trouble and Matt Green turning his ankle in the first half. I was proud of our guys.”
Hope next plays Friday at 4:15 p.m. PDT against Montana Western (23-9), which defeated No. 16 Benedictine, Kan., 80-77. To view the game online, go to naianetwork.com.
“We are going to try and keep this rolling for all the people back at Hope,” Czech said. “We appreciate all the support.”
Hope opened a 16-9 lead less than seven minutes into the game, but the Golden Bears surged ahead, 29-26, by halftime, then extended the margin to 34-26 in the first minute of the second half. The Royals responded with an 11-2 run for a 37-36 lead and it was tight the rest of the way.
With the score tied at 59, Neilan’s jumper gave Hope the lead for good.
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