By Anvil Welch
Globe Sports Writer
SENECA, Mo. —
Now, thanks to Hillsdale Baptist, the Ozark Christian College men’s basketball team will play the waiting game.
The fourth-seeded Saints, from Moore, Okla., handed the No. 1 seeded Ambassadors an 83-77 semifinal loss in their Multi-Purpose Building on Friday night in the NCCAA Division II Southwest Regional.
Second-seeded Arlington (Texas) Baptist jolted No. 3 Barclay (Haviland, Kan.) 93-61 in the second semifinal and will face Hillsdale at 2 p.m. today for the championship.
Hillsdale, avenging two earlier losses, improved to 11-18 and dropped OCC to 27-7.
“We’ll have to wait and see if we receive an at-large bid (to the NCCAA Division II) nationals,” OCC coach Chris Lahm said. “I’ll be surprised if we don’t get a bid. Right now, though, I have a sick feeling.”
Blame Hillsdale and its Phil Carey for a lot of that sick feeling,
Carey, a 6-foot-2 sophomore from Baton Rouge, scored 25 points, grabbed seven rebounds and had three steals. The Saints took a 46-40 lead into halftime — Carey tallied 14 — and never relinquished it in the second half.
OCC applied pressure down the stretch but the Saints seemingly had an answer each time.
“We’d get defensive stops but couldn’t convert on the other end,” Lahm said. “They did a good job of going 1-on-1 and knocking down shots.
“Hillsdale had 17 offensive rebounds,” Lahm said. “They led 17-6 in second-chance points. We didn’t shoot free throws very well, either (18 of 27 to the Saints’ 13 of 14).”
Hillsdale committed only seven turnovers and hit eight of 18 treys compared to OCC’s 7-for-21 accuracy.
Hillsdale coach Mark Berokoff, who’s in his first season with the Saints, pointed out that Carey wasn’t with them when they lost at Joplin, and they’ve won 10 of 13 to reach 11-18.
“It’s taken a while to gel,” Berokoff said. “We played a tough schedule early in the season. I’d like to say we’ve become hot at the right time.
“We usually don’t use a zone defense,” Berokoff said. “We probably used it tonight 90 percent of the time.”
Berokoff, 36, said he played a season for Lahm at Nebraska Christian and considers him a “second father.”
“They are a solid team and they will continue to improve under Mark,” Lahm said.
OCC received 26 points and 11 rebounds from 6-6 senior Kyle Wicklund. Darrin Chitwood, a 6-0 junior, hit 5 of 6 treys in scoring 14.
Carlton Dean, a 6-1 senior, and 5-10 classmate Jacob Campbell supported Carey with 14 and 11 points, respectively. Campbell also snared nine boards.
OCC will host the ACCA National Tournament next week. The OCC men’s and women’s teams will participate. The men’s field is expected to have 12 teams and the women 10.