HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. – Antoine Davis hit two free throws with 3.1 seconds to play to lift Montevallo to a 67-65 comeback win against Metro State on Wednesday night.
The Falcons will play defending national champion Bellarmine, an 82-73 winner against Alabama Huntsville, in Thursday’s national semifinal.
Davis was fouled by Roadrunners junior forward Jonathan Morse on his way to the basket.
“We were trying to run a high screen right there and get the big guy, [junior forward Drico] Hightower, the ball,” Montevallo head coach Danny Young said. “If not, try to get [Davis] coming off the other side and get to the basket or get to the line.”
It was Morse’s fifth foul and Metro State was unable to get off a final shot at the buzzer.
“We came out of a timeout and I wanted to change it a little bit,” Roadrunners coach Derrick Clark said. “We were in a 2-3 zone to give them a little bit of a [different] look. Our whole strategy was to see if we could get them to shoot a jump shot. They set a ball screen against the zone and [Morse] was just a little bit too aggressive. But that’s who we are though. We don’t look in hindsight and say we shouldn’t have been as aggressive.”
Davis made only 4 of 8 free throw attempts in the game and Montevallo hit only 9 of 16 as a team, so there was some pressure for the Falcons senior.
“It’s what I’d been waiting for, man,” Davis said. “I had been struggling the whole game at the free throw line. I was trying to concentrate and make sure I made these for my team. They were looking for me to step up. I’m a senior, so I’m glad they fell my way.”
Davis had earlier hit a put-back and completed a three-point play with 1:15 remaining to give the Falcons their first lead since the opening possession of the second half at 63-62.
“It still was a struggle because we couldn’t get over that hump,” Davis said. “We’d get it to one point or two points and they’d come down and make a 3. That hurts you a little bit, but we stuck together as a team and played hard.”
Davis led Montevallo with 18 points. Senior guard D.J. Rivera added 14, Hightower scored 11 and Ryan May added 10.
“Our guys played good,” Young said. “I thought we battled hard all night long. It just seemed to be 1-5 points and we couldn’t get over the hump it seemed until the very end right there.”
While Davis finally got his free throws to fall at the end, it seemed nothing fell the Roadrunners’ way during the final few minutes. Metro State led by eight at 60-52 inside the six-minute mark, but the Roadrunners were outscored 15-5 the rest of the way. Metro State turned the ball over four times in the last several minutes and finished with 15 giveaways.
“We were up six with about two and a half minutes left, but we just didn’t close it out,” Clark said. “We had some bounces that didn’t go our way.”
“We typically don’t turn the ball over 15 times. We were under 11 turnovers and they came in bad stretches inthat two and a half minutes. I thought we lost our aggression and they picked up their defensive pressure. We had a couple costly turnovers and when we needed a big rebound, we didn’t quite get to those rebounds. I thought Davis’s rebound and put-back off a miss was a huge play.”
Metro State tied the game twice in the final two minutes, but could not retake the lead.
Senior guard Reggie Evans led Metro State with 20 points. Junior guard Demetrius Miller added 16 points despiteplaying most of the game mired in foul trouble. Miller committed three fouls in the first half and picked up his fourth foul less than four minutes into the second half, but was never tagged with a fifth.
“Demetrius was being aggressive,” Evans said. “It’s not all on him at the end of the day. All of our guards, we’ve got to stay aggressive with the attack mindset. We needed him like we need everyone else to contribute.”
Senior forward Paul Brotherson added seven of his 13 points in the second half and grabbed 12 rebounds for his first career double-double for Metro State.
“I just felt like it’s my time,” Brotherson said. “I was just going as hard as I could in practice. I just felt confident in myself.”
The Roadrunners were after their third national title in Division II after winning championships in 2000 and 2002, but will have to settle for a Central Region championship.
“I couldn’t be prouder of a group of guys,” Clark said. “These guys achieved.”
The Falcons, making their third appearance in the Elite Eight (2006 and 2007), now turn their attention to the defending champs, Bellarmine.
“They’re smart and have a lot of returning players,” Young said. “Obviously, they’ve been here before. They played with a lot of poise tonight, knowing what they were going to do down the stretch. They made some big defensive plays tonight down the stretch. So, hopefully, we’re going to have to try to spread them out and try to get them on the move a little bit and try to get after them.”