From staff reports
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. —
Ozark Christian moved into the semifinal round of the men’s NCCAA Division II Basketball Championships on Thursday.
The Ambassadors shook off an early 9-0 deficit and held a double-digit lead for most of the second half before slipping past third-seeded North Central University of Minneapolis 73-70.
At-large entry OCC, seeded 11th, challenges seventh-seeded Arlington (Texas) Baptist at 6 tonight in the first semifinal at Central Bible College. OCC, 31-8, is 2-0 against Arlington Baptist this season.
Said OCC coach Chris Lahm: “I thought we played very well except for late in the game.
“We tried to lose it,” Lahm said with a laugh. “We missed some free throws and threw the ball away. We still managed to hang on.”
Lahm said, with the score tied at 70, Kyle Wicklund’s putback gave the Ambassadors a 72-70 lead with about 20 seconds left.
“They (the Rams) missed a layup with six seconds left and Zac Hill (of OCC) hit one of two free throws with five seconds remaining,” Lahm said. “They had a pretty good look for a 3 to tie it. But the ball hit the rim and fell short.”
OCC finished with four players scoring in double figures, Logging double-doubles were Wicklund (18 points, 11 rebounds) and Darrin Chitwood (12 points, 10 boards). Hill and Adam Smith tallied 13 and 12.
“Adam (Smith), who was 5-for-5 from the field, has had two phenomenal games for us (in the nationals),” Lahm said. “He hit some big shots when Kyle (Wicklund) was in foul trouble. Philip Donna also played well (grabbing six rebounds). Kendall Wingert returned from the injury list (with eight points).”
OCC, which led 33-30 at the half, shot more than 47 percent from the field overall compared to the 42.3 percent by North Central. OCC also led 45-34 in rebounding.
North Central (15-13) received 25 points from 5-10 senior Nathan Roeder. Earlier in the week, Roeder, a three-time All-Amercan, was named the NCCAA Division II Player of the Year and winner of the Pete Maravich Memorial Award.