CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Central Christian College’s men stunned longtime thorn-in-the-side College of the Ozarks 71-70 on Friday in the first round of the AII Tournament.
The Bobcats had won twice earlier against the Tigers this season. Central is now 18-10 and plays No. 1 seed Mount Mercy today at 4:00. If the Tigers lose, they would play for third place on Sunday and it would be important as the AII gets three qualifying berths to the NAIA National Tournament.
“I am very proud of our guys, they showed a lot of character,” CCC coach Tony Romero said. “We had great preparation in practice and I felt our guys were locked in all week. College of the Ozarks is a very good team and one of the best-coached teams we face, we have nothing but respect for their players and their program. I am extremely happy for our seniors and the rest of the guys, our guys really wanted this one after they knocked us out in the semifinals of the MCAC tournament last year. We had so many guys step up and make big plays tonight, it was total team effort."
Ozarks led 38-34 at the half, but the Tigers clamped down defensively in the second half.
Central took a 71-67 lead with 28 seconds left on a layup by Alonzo Stafford, but an Ethan Murray 3-pointer at the 14-second mark cut it to one.
The Tigers’ Ernest Burton was fouled with 7 seconds left, but missed the front end of a 1-and-1. CCC’s Sam Clayborn got the offensive rebounds and missed the putback. Ozarks rebounded and a Murray 3-pointer at the buzzer was no good.
Michael Gholston was gold for the Tigers with 23 points, while Stafford had a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Burton provided 10 off the bench and Kendric Warren grabbed 10 rebounds.
Central (71) — Nwosuh 7, Gholston 23, Clayborn 4, Stafford 17, Warren 3, Jackson 2, Guillory 3, Burton 10, Robbins 2.
Ozarks (70) — Paschke 12, Young 7, Starbird 6, Frazier 4, Murray 22, Carmichael 3, Smith 3, Davidson 13.