KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Central Missouri Mules outlasted Northwest Missouri State 79-76 in a thrilling overtime game to claim the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association tournament championship. The win improved UCM’s record to 22-7 and gives the Mules the MIAA’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
The Bearcats (21-10) started fast, racing out to a 7-0 lead a minute-and-a-half into the game. The Mules missed their first seven shots before Charles Hammork’s 3-pointer at the 16:15 mark got UCM on the board. Lance Beckwith sank a pair of free throws to pull the Mules within two, but Alex Sullivan buried a 3 to push the Bearcats back to a five-point lead.
The Northwest lead was still five near the 11:00 mark when the Mules went on a 9-2 run to take a 21-19 lead with 7:37 left in the half. The Bearcats went back in front 26-24 on another 3 by Sullivan with 5:17 remaining. The Mules went without a field goal for 4:05 before Widgett Washington scored back-to-back layups to put UCM back in front 28-26.
Grant Cozad tied the game at 28-28 with a layup at the 2:22 mark and Sullivan drilled his third 3 of the half to give Northwest Missouri a 31-28 lead. A jumper by Matt Webb and a 3 from Dominique Long gave UCM a 33-31 lead with 33 seconds to play, but Cozad scored a bucket in the closing seconds to tie the game at 33-33 going into halftime.
The teams battled back-and-forth to start the second half as neither team could seize control. A 3-pointer by Long gave the Mules a 38-36 lead, but Sullivan hit his fourth triple of the game to put the Bearcats back in front. Northwest Missouri pushed its lead to four at 47-43 with 13:40 on the clock.
The Bearcats led 51-47 with 11:48 to play, but the Mules went on an 8-0 run to grab a 55-51 lead with 9:04 to play. The Bearcats cut the lead to two at 58-56, but a 7-1 run gave the Mules an eight-point lead with 3:50 to play.
That’s when the Bearcats’ defense clamped down and their offense picked up. Tyler Funk scored a bucket to cut the deficit to six and Bryston Williams buried a 3 to pull the Bearcats within three at 65-62 with 2:36 to play. Dillon Starzl’s layup with 2:04 to play pulled Northwest Missouri within 65-64.
Matt Webb made one of two free throws with 16 seconds left to give the Mules a two-point lead. After a Bearcats miss, the Mules went back to the foul line. The Mules missed the front end of a 1-and-1 and Williams drove the length of the floor to score a layup with two seconds left to tie the game. Hammork’s half-court heave bounced off the rim at the buzzer and the game headed to overtime.
The Bearcats took an early three-point lead in overtime at 70-67. Washington made a pair of free throws to pull UCM within one and Long’s layup gave the Mules a 71-70 lead with 1:57 to play. Washington’s driving layup at the 1:38 mark gave the Mules a 73-70 lead, but Williams scored a traditional three-point play to tie the game with 1:21 to play in the extra period.
Cozad’s two free throws at the 1:08 mark gave the Bearcats the lead, but Long was fouled shooting a 3 with 54 second left. He made all three shots to give UCM a 76-75 lead.
After a Northwest Missouri turnover, Hammork made one of two at the line to give the Mules a 77-75 lead with 29 seconds left. The Bearcats missed an open 3 on their next possession and Hammork again hit one of two to push the lead to three.
Matt Wallace was fouled shooting a 3 with four seconds left. He made the first, but missed the second. He intentionally missed the third, but Zach Bush secured the rebound for UCM. Bush then hit one of two at the line to give UCM a 79-76 lead and the Bearcats couldn’t get a clean look at the basket on the inbounds.
The win gives the Mules their sixth MIAA tournament title, more than any other school in league history, and the fourth under head coach Kim Anderson. UCM is now 4-1 in MIAA tournament championship games under Anderson.
UCM was led in scoring by Washington’s 20 points. Long finished with 16 points and Hammork had 10 points and six rebounds.
The Mules were 27 of 68 from the field for 40 percent and nine of 19 from 3-point range for 47 percent. The Mules made 16 of 26 free throws for 62 percent.
The Bearcats were 26 of 58 from the field for 45 percent and 8 of 15 from beyond the arc for 53 percent. Northwest Missouri was 16 of 23 at the foul line for 69 percent.
Northwest Missouri was led in scoring by Williams’ game-high 27 points and nine rebounds. Cozad had 14 points, while Starzl finished with 13 and Sullivan chipped in 12.
In addition to giving UCM the MIAA tournament championship and automatic bid to the national tourney, it was also the ninth consecutive win against Northwest Missouri.
Washington was the named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player and Hammork also was named to the all-tournament team.