By Eric Montgomery | NAIA Media Coordinator
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – No. 6-seeded :Langston led 1-seeded William Penn (Iowa) by 18 points in the first half, but fell short in an 84-80 loss to the Statesman, Saturday afternoon in the quarterfinal round of the 2017 Buffalo Funds-NAIA Division I Men’s Basketball National Championship at Municipal . William Penn advances to the semifinal round and will play the winner of Dalton State (Ga.) and Texas Wesleyan on Monday, March 20 at 8:00 p.m., CST.
Torren Jones posted his third double-double in as many games for William Penn, recording 22 points and 16 rebounds. Kevin Smith and Charles Knowles each tallied 15 points and combined for nine rebounds, four assists and four steals.
William Penn (33-3) looked to be in danger of becoming the second-straight No. 1-seeded team to lose in the quarterfinal round, falling behind 32-14 at the 5:49 mark of the opening frame. The Statesmen were 3 of 15 (.200) from three-point range in the first half and shot just over 30 percent overall from the field, while the Lions were an efficient 12 of 23 (.522) and got to the free throw line for a 16 of 19 clip.
Foul trouble hampered the Statesmen in the first half, with Jones and Lionel Ellison each committing three and three others going to the break with two. Despite the foul count, William Penn clawed back to within nine points before halftime thanks to a three-pointer by Corbin Medley and a pair of jumpers by Knowles in the final 3:04.
The late momentum shift carried over into the second half and completely turned the game around for the Statesmen. Still facing a nine-point deficit with 15:10 remaining, William Penn embarked on a 19-3 run over 4:56 to claim a 61-55 lead. Smith did almost all of the damage himself, scoring 13-straight points and assisting on another bucket during the frenzy.
The early foul trouble reared its head against the Statesmen down the stretch, creating some anxious moments. Smith and Ellison each fouled out within 40 seconds of each other, removing the two primary ball handlers from the William Penn lineup. The Lions capitalized, cutting the deficit to four with 1:14 to play on a three-pointer by Terrell Jones. However, neither team was able to score in the final minute.
“The way that we went out was the way that we were this season,” said Langston head coach Stan Holt. “We played with fire, heart and determination. Our guys need to be proud of their season. They have nothing to be ashamed about. They’re a great group that plays with so much heart and grit and I just love every single one of those guys.”
Michael Harris tallied 20 points and four rebounds to lead the way for Langston, while Daryle Morgan Jr. chipped in with 17 points and six rebounds. Terrell Jones tallied 14 points and seven rebounds, and Jamal McDowell added 10 points. The Lions finished the game 33 of 40 at the free throw line, while William Penn converted all 11 of its attempts at the charity stripe.
The Lions were making their fifth appearance overall and second-straight in championship, moving to 2-5 all-time after today’s loss ...The Lions' opening-round victory Wednesday night over Biola (Calif.) was its first in national championship play following four straight opening-round losses... The Lions are one of four Red River Athletic Conference teams in this year’s field and one of two (along with LSU Alexandria) to advance to the quarterfinals ... Red River Athletic Conference teams are 4-3 in this year's tournament thus far...Langston had won 12 of the last 13 contests before today’s loss...The Lions finished the season 5-8 against national championship qualifiers...Langston's 40 free throw attempts and 33 makes are the most by a team in a single game in the 2017 national championship thus far.
Langston concluded its season with a record of 24-10.