By Richard Polen
Globe Sports Writer
Ozark Christian College went on a 15-0 run late in the first half, then held off Hillsdale Baptist in the second half for a 78-68 victory Saturday in the third-place game of the ACCA National Championship tournament.
Cameron Woodring, a 5-foot-11 freshman, led the Ambassadors with 23 points, including eight points during a 10-0 OCC run late in the second half that clinched the victory in Young Gymnasium at Missouri Southern.
“We had to hold on. Our players did a good job,” said OCC head coach Chris Lahm. “Like I told them in a timeout, only worry about the things you can control.”
The victory was the 500th in Lahm’s 27-year career as a head coach at Nebraska Christian and Ozark Christian. He was named National Coach of the Year in 2005-06 in the NCCAA and ACCA. He coached OCC’s women for two years.
Hillsdale took its only lead at 13-11 on a basket inside by Chris Williams. The Ambassadors responded with an 8-0 run that included four points by 6-6 freshman Adam Smith, then turned to their running game that helped produce a 15-0 run and a 41-20 lead just before halftime.
“We played them twice earlier in the season,” said senior Kyle Wicklund, who scored 13 points and grabbed seven rebounds. “It worked in two regular-season games and it worked in this game.”
Trailing 49-31 with 14 minutes remaining, Hillsdale began its second-half comeback with a 13-2 run in a little more than three minutes that brought the Chargers to within 51-44.
OCC widened the lead to 60-48, aided by Woodring’s fast-break layup off a pass from Zac Hill, but Hillsdale scored the next eight points and trailed just 60-56 with 5:37 to play.
“Coach had to call a timeout and chew us out and get our heads on straight,” Wicklund said. “He reamed us a little bit and we were able to get some stops and some easy buckets.”
The ensuing 10-0 run, led by Woodring, gave the Ambassadors a 70-56 lead with 3:32 remaining.
Carlton Dean led Hillsdale with 18 points.
Hilldale, which made just 27.6 percent of its field-goal attempts in the first half, finished 27 of 75 for 36 percent. The Ambassadors were 34 of 68 from field (50 percent), but made only two of 13 attempts from three-point range.
“We wanted to beat them in transition,” Lahm said. “You have to control the boards and get some guys out running.”
The Ambassadors outrebounded Hillsdale 46-42, led by Zac Hill, who had 13 rebounds, and Smith, who had 11.
Ozark Christian will compete this week in the NCCAA tournament at Central Bible College in Springfield.
The Ambassadors are matched against Valley Forge Christian from Phoenixville, Pa., in the first round.