March 14, 2009

Courtesy of Guilford

UNIVERSITY HEIGHTS, Ohio (3/14/09) – Guilford College advanced to its first NCAA Division III Men’s Basketball Final Four Saturday with a 64-59 overtime win over the University of Texas-Dallas at John Carroll University.

The Quakers (25-5) rallied from a 12-point deficit with 5:27 left in regulation and advance to the national semifinals to play defending Division III champion Washington (Mo,) University, a 79-64 winner over the University of St. Thomas Saturday night. Tip-off is set for 5:00 p.m. in the Salem (Va.) Civic Center. (Guilford’s Old Dominion Athletic Conference plays the final three rounds of the league’s postseason basketball tournament in the same arena.) Franklin & Marshall College plays Richard Stockton College in the Friday’s other national semifinal matchup.

“Obviously everybody’s excited and we’re happy about what we’ve accomplished to this point,” said Quakers’ head coach Tom Palombo. “I think the key is to not be satisfied with that. We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity here and we’re going to try to play one more game, try not to get caught up in it and try to win one more.”

Clay HensonClay Henson’s (left) leaning three-pointer from the top of the key with 0.8 seconds left forced extra time and capped the Quakers’ 17-5 run to end regulation. Henson, who scored 12 of his 14 points after halftime, made his team’s first three-pointer just a minute earlier as Guilford missed its first 13 trifectas.

Despite the shooting woes, Henson was the man down the stretch. “He struggled,” Palombo said. “But (assistant) coach (Matt) Parke said ‘Hey, get him to take that last shot. Get it in his hand,’ and he certainly did.”

The Quakers struck first in overtime on Rhett Bonner’s first three-pointer of the game 26 seconds into the period. The Comets’ Brandon Greene scored with 3:23 left to make it a 58-57 contest. Neither team scored before Guilford’s Tyler Sanborn, a sub-55 percent free-throw shooter, made two free throws with 1:01 left to open a 60-57 margin.

Texas-Dallas (26-5) made just two-of-eight shots and Guilford held a 7-2 rebounding edge in overtime. Perhaps the biggest rebound game with just under a minute left when Guilford’s T.C. Anderson missed two free throws, but corralled his second miss, drew another foul, and made his next two free throws for a 62-57 Quakers’ edge with 27 seconds left in the game.

Temaine Wright’s basket with 15 seconds left cut the Comets’ deficit to three, but Henson’s two free throws three seconds later provided the game’s final margin. Texas-Dallas’ Jimmy Witten’s three-pointer with five seconds left missed the mark and Anderson grabbed the carom for his career-high seventh rebound of the game.

Tyler SanbornThe Comets appeared to be in control of the game before Guilford employed a full-court trap. The defensive maneuver changed the momentum and helped the Quakers get back into the game.

“It changed the tempo,” Palombo said. “It kind of sped them up a little but, kind of got them out of what they had been doing. We finally made some shots and got to the free-throw line.”

“It was a trap, really, to slow their point guard down,” Henson said. “He was getting into the lane a lot and kicking it out, so we really tried to get the ball out of his hands and make some other people make decisions. When he did get the ball back, he was getting a little bit out of control and we got some turnovers.”

Sanborn (right) compiled his team-leading 19th double with 18 points and 13 rebounds, both game highs. He was named the sectional tournament’s Most Valuable Player. Bonner (below), who finished with 14 points, was also an all-tournament selection.

Witten, also an all-tourney pick, led Texas-Dallas with 16 points on four-of-six three-point shooting, but scored only five points after halftime. Scott Rodgers added 10 points off the bench. The Comets lost the battle of the boards, 44-30, and were outscored, 28-16, in the paint.
The Quakers are ranked 23rd in the most recent Top 25 Poll and making their third straight NCAA Division III Championships appearance. Guilford also reached the Elite Eight in 2007, but fell to Virginia Wesleyan in sectional final.