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Men's Basketball - Sat, Feb. 25, 2017 - posted by Seth Preuss
HIU captured its second GSAC title in three seasons with a win at William Jessup
HIU captured its second GSAC title in three seasons with a win at William Jessup
(10)Hope International
(RV)William Jessup University

ROCKLIN, CA – It took overtime against a scrappy Warriors team on their Senior Day, but Hope International was able to claim its second undisputed GSAC Championship with an 89-88 victory over William Jessup. Hope International went 2-0 on its last road trip of the regular season to secure the solo share of the title, the number one seed in the GSAC Tournament, and a first round bye at Westmont on Mar. 3.

William Jessup got off to a good start in the game, energized and playing for its seniors and home fans, and took an early 12-3 lead over HIU after almost four minutes of play. The Royals gritted their teeth and answered back with a 10-4 run to pull with three, 16-13, with 12 minutes to play and settled into the ball game after that.

Jessup would run away from the Royals again with four minutes left in the first half to lead by nine, 36-27, but the Royals again answered the bell and closed the final 4:15 on a 13-1 run with stop after stop to lead by three at the break, 40-37, over their hosts. HIU lived in the paint in the first half, outscoring Jessup 24-12 in the painted area and putting up 14 points on second-chance opportunities.

Now in the driver's seat after the half, HIU pulled away from its host to lead by seven after a pair of free throws fell in for Josh Smith (SR/National City, CA) with 18:39 left in regulation. The Royals would maintain a lead in the neighborhood of five points for much of the second half before pushing their advantage all the way out to 12 points, 73-61, with 5:08 to play after a free throw by Donny Punter (JR/Long Island, NY).

However, similar to the game played at Darling Pavilion on Feb. 2, William Jessup had a late run left to make the game interesting for HIU fans. HIU still led 81-71 with 1:49 to play but the Warriors pressured HIU every step of the way and used key turnovers and buckets on the other end to outscore HIU 11-1 in the final two minutes. A last-second heave from Punter caromed off the rim and the game headed to overtime after the late WJU push.

Smith carried HIU to the finish line in the final five minutes of overtime, winning the tip and scoring the first bucket of the extra period for HIU en route to the 89-88 final. Smith scored five of the Royals' seven overtime points to seal the win and came up with a crucial last-second block on a layup attempt by Jessup's leading scorer of the night to cap the victory for his team.

Smith led all scorers with a career night, scoring 30 points on 69% shooting from the field to go with 11 boards and 12 made free throws. Punter poured in 18, Charles Trotter (SO/Slidell, LA) tallied 15, Liam Hunt (JR/San Anselmo, CA) added 12, and Devin Greene (FR/Sacramento, CA) tallied ten for HIU as five Royals scored in double figures during the win. Smith and Hunt each finished with double-doubles for the Royals in their championship-clinching win.

"For us to win the GSAC is a great honor and a credit to our guys' effort all year," Coach Bill Czech said after the win. "When you think about how many new guys we had come together this season, it's just a credit to them and how much they trust and care for one another to get this done. The GSAC is [one of] the best conferences in the NAIA, very deep, very physical, and so it's great to get our second in three years for the guys."

HIU improves to 24-6 overall with a .800 win percentage in the regular season, a GSAC title, and the number one seed heading into the GSAC Tournament. The first round and the semifinals will be hosted at Westmont next weekend with the Tournament Championship game hosted the following Tuesday, Mar. 7 at HIU in the Darling Pavilion. Stay tuned to our website for more details in the coming week.

M - Basketball
Overall GSAC Streak
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