GREENVILLE, S.C. -- It wasn't the result they wanted, but the Sabercats secured their best NCCAA national finish in 16 years this afternoon.
With an 86-101 loss to #3 Johnson, the Sabercats finish the season at 16-11 - their best winning percentage in over 20 seasons.
- Result: #8 Maranatha 86-101 #3 Johnson
- Venue: Davis Field House, Bob Jones University
- Location: Greenville, S.C.
- Attendance: 489
- Records: MBU (16-11), JUT (18-16)
When the Royals are on the floor, the game is a high-scoring one. And the 3rd-place game of the 2019 National Tournament was no exception. The Royals were connecting more often than not, putting up 48 first-half points to make a convincing opening statement.
Matt Gill did most of the heavy lifting for Maranatha, as the four-year senior was one field-goal shy of matching his career-high. Gill put up a dozen points and grabbed nine boards to try to keep the Sabercats in it, but the Royals marched into the locker room ahead 48-36.
The difference was in the shooting, as the Royals went 17-33 from the floor (6-15 from downtown) while MBU went 14-35 and just 3-11 from beyond the arc.
Tyree Bruno tried to start the comeback for Maranatha in the second half, as the freshman put up six points in under two minutes. But Johnson held Maranatha off and promptly increased the 12-point halftime lead to 22 points - a margin that they would sustain as the second half matured.
The Sabercats had trouble dealing with the Royals' balance, as four student-athletes (led by 26 points from Taylor Gilpin) ultimately ended up in double figures for the Mideast Region champions.
Inside the final 10 minutes, the Sabercats went on a 9-0 run to try to start a comeback, but the Royals' explosive offense outlasted the charge from the Blue and Gold. Coach Keith Salscheider had all five seniors on the floor inside the final five minutes, and the five-man group of Jonathan Book, David Lerma, CJ Jones, Rob Sonnenberg, and Matt Gill all exited the floor to a standing ovation from the MBU fans as they wrapped up their collegiate careers.
As a consolation, Lerma was named to the NCCAA all-tournament team after compiling 57 points (19 points per game) at the National Tournament.
MBU Starters: 3-Book, 15-Lerma, 22-Sonnenberg, 23-Wilkerson, 35-Gill // JUT Starters: 4-Grubb, 11-Felder, 23-Jones, 33-Gilpin, 44-Gullion
- Gill: led MBU with a career-high 17 points and was 1 rebound shy of his career-best of 14
- Sonnenberg: notched 16 points
- Bruno: 13 points
- Aaron Sanders: 11 points
- 3-PT shooting: Johnson 15-38, MBU 7-24
- FT shooting: Johnson 20-21, MBU 17-28
- Last time: Johnson beat Maranatha 90-73 in the first round of the 2018 NCCAA National Tournament
- Series: Johnson now leads the series 2-1
- Johnson won the Mideast Region and are one of three Mideast teams at the National Tournament
- Johnson knocked off regional favorites Grace Christian in the Mideast Semifinal
- JUT beat MBU 90-73 in the first round of last year's national tournament and finished in 4th place
- The Royals were riding an 8-game winning streak coming into the tournament
The Sabercats conclude their season with 16 wins, their best winning percentage since 1996, and their best NCCAA finish since 2003. A full recap of the season will be forthcoming at mbusabercats.com.