- Result: #5 Maranatha 68-76 #6 Dallas Christian
- Venue: Davis Field House, Bob Jones University
- Attendance: 83
- Record: Sabercats finish the season at 16-14, and 11-2 in NCCAA play
GREENVILLE, S.C. -- In their final game of the season, a noteworthy Sabercats' effort was negated by a determined Dallas Christian College squad down the stretch.
With this result, the Sabercats have finished the season at 16-14 and as the 6th-ranked NCCAA team - the best team finish since 2003.
It was a cagey opening for both teams, as it took the Sabercats a couple of minutes to connect a shot. It came when David Lerma made a quick steal and finished his layup at the other end. Just a minute and a half later, Lerma knocked down a 3-pointer to give the Sabercats their first lead of the game.
Even though Maranatha had trouble finishing at one end, their tight zones at the other end proved to be a problem for the Crusaders, as it took Dallas over 9 minutes to record 10 points.
The Crusaders began to press through the middle stages of the first half, and it caused problems for MBU. The Sabercats' score essentially froze for a couple of minutes as the team fought turnovers under constant pressure from their opponents. Dallas Christian capitalized on the momentum to jump out to a 19-14 lead, forcing Keith Salscheider to call his third timeout of the half with 8:25 on the clock.
Dallas Christian's 3-point shooting began to heat up, as they knocked down 2 consecutive shots from downtown immediately following the timeout. From that point on, DCC managed to keep it a 2-possession game until Stephen Wilkerson knocked down a 3-pointer to tie the game at 27 with 2:45 left in the half. The rookie followed that up with another 3 with 1:00 left, but an immediate answer from Dallas restored a 1-point advantage for the #6 seed.
It could have been a comfortable lead for the Sabercats entering the break, but the team struggled with their free-throw shooting from top to bottom, connecting just 5-13 from the line in the opening 20 minutes.
At halftime, Dallas Christian was in front, 30-31.
The Sabercats were more in control to start the second half, as they posted a 9-2 run in the opening possessions to take a 6-point lead, which forced DCC into calling a timeout.
From there, the Sabercats showcased a balanced offense and managed to keep it a 2-or-3-possession game until the 10:00 mark, when DCC's Keldon Williams connected three shots from the line to make it a 1-point game in favor of Maranatha. Just a couple of tradeoffs later, Dexter Dean gave the Crusaders their first lead of the half with a courageous tip-in with 7:55 left in the game.
Lerma showed that he came to play, as he and Micah Shepard kept the Sabercats close in the ensuing minutes. The scoring from the two shooters kept the Sabercats alive, as the Crusaders were energized by their sense of a potential momentum shift. In the closing minutes, the game was tight and high-scoring as both teams did well in connecting their shots. But it was the Crusaders that maintained the edge throughout the finishing stretch. Boasting strong play in the paint and patient 3-point shooting, the Crusaders held off a Sabercats charge, forcing MBU to foul in the final minute.
The tight game was ultimately won from the line for DCC, who connected 5 of their 6 shots in the closing stretch to seal the 5th-place honors.
The final horn capped off a solid final-game effort, a 6th-place national finish, and a memorable NCCAA postseason run from MBU.
Box score insights: TBA
With a noteworthy 2017-18 season officially finished, a full recap of the season will be forthcoming at mbusabercats.com.