After a dominating first-half performance, the Greyhounds lost the lead with just 1:18 left in the game but used a miraculous 7-1 run in the last 40 seconds to earn a 68-66 victory over the host MCC-Penn Valley Scouts to win the NJCAA District XIII Championship Saturday in Kansas City, Missouri.
The win gives ASU Mid-South (26-5) its first-ever berth in the NJCAA Division II National Tournament held March 20-24 in Danville, Illinois. The Greyhounds have set a new standard with a series of firsts this season including the most victories in a season, best single-season record, first national ranking (currently ranked #13), first time to win consecutive region championships, first district championship, and first time to qualify for the NJCAA National Tournament.
The Greyhounds put on an outstanding first-half performance to take a 37-22 halftime lead, holding the host team to 30.3% shooting and only 1-of-14 from the three-point line while shooting 40% from the field, 43% from the arc and 80% from the free throw line.
But out of the break, the Scouts slowly began clawing their way back into the game thanks to aggressive defense and four players hitting a combined seven three-pointers, the last of which from B.J. Saunders, his fourth triple, that pulled the Scouts within 59-57 with 3:29 remaining.
However, Penn Valley did not take their first lead of the game until Saunders' two free throws put the home team on top 62-61 at the 1:18 mark. The Greyhounds then turned it over on the ensuing possession, and Darius Rice hit a layup with 54.3 seconds left to give Penn Valley a 64-61 advantage.
The Greyhounds then missed a three-pointer, the rebound went out of bounds off the Greyhounds, and the Scouts were up by three with the ball with 45.7 seconds remaining.
Dee Montgomery then picked up his fifth foul on the ensuing possession. B.J. Saunders hit the first of two free throws with 44.3 left giving Penn Valley a 65-61 lead and a two-possession cushion.
But Saunders missed the second free throw, K.J. Patrick rebounded and threw the outlet to Montee Randle who drove the length of the court for the layup and the foul, then calmly sank the free throw with 39.2 seconds left and the Greyhounds now down only 65-64. The Greyhounds then denied the inbounds to force a Penn Valley timeout, and Patrick picked up his fourth foul before the ball was inbounded, sending Thomas Bell to the line and the Scouts still leading 65-64.
Bell then missed the first free throw and made the second, and the Scouts held a 66-64 lead. Randle's layup attempt was then partially blocked by Bell, Patrick tied up the rebound, but the possession arrow favored the home team and the Scouts had the ball with 30.2 seconds left.
The Greyhounds again pressed to force the tempo, and Malik Barnett mishandled a layup attempt that was rebounded by Randle. Terrandus Smith then hurried the ball up the court, drove the paint and found Trevor Banks under the basket. But Banks' layup attempt rolled around the rim and fell out, and Smith battled for a rebound and was fouled on the shot that rolled around the right side of the rim, bumped the backboard, rolled to the left side of the rim and dropped in to tie the game at 66 with 14.1 seconds left.
Smith's ensuing free throw was just off the mark, Bell snagged the rebound and finally found Darius Rice for the outlet, but Banks was there when Rice turned to advance the ball and in trying to avoid the charge stepped out of bounds with 9.1 seconds remaining.
After a Greyhound timeout, Smith inbounded the ball to Randle who hit Patrick on the block, and Patrick found Banks cutting to the basket. Banks' shot fake got Bell in the air, and despite obvious contact managed to finish the layup to give the Greyhounds the lead with 4.7 seconds left. The Scouts quickly dribbled up the floor, but Roy Meekie's running floater just inside the three-point line never touched the rim and richocheted off the backboard where Banks rebounded as the buzzer sounded to secure the Greyhound victory.
Trevor Banks led the Greyhounds with 16 points on 8-of-10 shooting while Terrandus Smith and K.J. Patrick scored 12 points each. Montee Randle scored six points to go with a team-high 10 rebounds while Dee Montgomery dished out four assists and he and Patrick both had two steals. The Greyhounds led the battle of the boards 43-33 and pulled down 18 offensive rebounds to the Scouts' 10.
The Greyhounds now advance to the National Tournament which features the winners of each of the NJCAA's 16 districts playing in a straight bracket format for the National Championship. Losers of first-round games play in an 8-team bracket for 7th place, losers of second-round games play out a 4-team bracket for 5th place, and losers of the semifinals play each other for 3rd place while the two remaining teams without a tournament loss vie for the national title.