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Men's Basketball - Tue, Mar. 7, 2017 - posted by Seth Preuss
Josh Smith got his second career double-double in the 2OT loss (Photo by Liza Rosales)
Josh Smith got his second career double-double in the 2OT loss (Photo by Liza Rosales)
(14)The Master's University
(5)Hope International

FULLERTON, CA – No. 5 Hope International hosted No. 14 The Master's Mustangs on Tuesday, March 7, for the GSAC Tournament Finals in the Darling Pavilion. The game was a classic GSAC contest that took two overtimes to decide as each team dug deep throughout the night with highlight after highlight for each side.

It's incredibly difficult to beat a team three times in one season and the Royals found that out the hard way after TMU ground out the win in the second overtime after outscoring HIU by five points in the last period.

HIU started off with a 7-3 lead after layups by Josh Smith (SR/National City, CA) and Liam Hunt (JR/San Anselmo, CA) as well as a trey by Hunt. The Mustangs quickly ate into the Royals' lead, however, and tied the game up 9-9 with 12:48 left in the half. TMU would take its first lead two minutes later after a Shackelford triple and the Royals would have to work over the next four minutes to tie it at 16-16 with 6:30 left to play in the half. HIU would outscore the Mustangs by three from that point on and led 29-16 at the half after a final layup by Hunt.

Kyle Hoag (SR/Mission Viejo, CA) scored the first bucket of the second half ten seconds in after being set up by Hunt and the Royals rolled from there to an eight-point lead after three minutes and change – HIU grabbed its largest lead of the night after a pair of free throws by Donny Punter (JR/Long Island, NY) with 16:42 left in the half, up 39-31.

Six minutes later the Mustangs had cut that lead back down to one, 43-42 in favor of HIU, and with 7:27 remaining TMU tied it at 51-51. Both sides would take turns leading through the final five minutes before ending regulation knotted at 60-60.

Smith won the tip in the first overtime for HIU and Deondre Bryant (JR/Santa Ana, CA) put up the first bucket of the period in the paint for a 62-60 lead, but TMU was able to take control after that and led 66-62 midway through the period. On the Royals' next possession Devin Greene (FR/Sacramento, CA) got the ball late in the shot clock and knocked down a cold-blooded triple to pull within one and then would tie the game for HIU with another trey a minute later to send the contest to its second overtime. "Devin made a couple of the biggest shots you could ever ask for," Coach Bill Czech said after the game of his freshman point guard.

The Mustangs scored the first bucket of the second overtime and would not be denied in what proved to be the final period of the night. HIU made just one field goal in the second overtime as the Mustangs came up with two key blocks and several heartbreaking stops to seal the win, 79-74.

TMU claimed its first-ever GSAC Tourney Championship with the victory and the automatic bid to the NAIA National Championship that goes with it. The Master's has not made the trip to the NAIA Tournament since 2000 when it was played at the Tulsa Convention Center in Oklahoma – for context, the oldest active member of the Mustangs was seven at the time.

HIU was led offensively by Smith with 19 points as the senior notched his second career double-double with 12 boards. Hunt added 16 points and 16 boards while collecting his 14th double-double of the year. The Royals played excellent defense for the majority of the evening, limiting TMU to just six treys in the 35 attempts (17%). Turnovers were what ultimately doomed the Royals' title hopes as they gave the ball away eight more times than the Mustangs.

"The guys battled – we've have a great year and [tonight] they really laid it all out there and gave everything they had to the team and their school," Coach Czech remarked of the game. "In athletics you take the risk of failure and tonight we played a team that was very tough also, very determined, and both of us fought really hard but they just made a couple more plays."

Coach Czech was deeply proud of his team and appreciative of all the support at the Finals, saying "It's been an amazing year – we've had great support from our administration, John Turek our AD, and the students tonight were incredible."

The Royals will finish the year 17-1 on their home floor and ready for the NAIA Tournament that begins Mar. 15 in Kansas City, MO. The Selection Show revealing the bracket and the contest times will be live on Wednesday, March 8, at 5:00 PM PST at this link.

M - Basketball
Overall GSAC Streak
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