SALEM, Va. - Despite being held to a season low point total, the second-ranked Benedictine University men's basketball team kept a historic season moving, rallying after trailing at halftime for just the fourth time this season to best Amherst College and reach the NCAA Division III Men's Basketball Championship game.
Amherst led 29-25 at the break, but Consecutive layups from Adam Reynolds to begin the second half tied the score and a Luke Johnson layup capped a stretch of six straight to give Benedictine a 31-29 edge. Benedictine made six of the first nine field goal attempts in the second half as Amherst struggled to a 1-for-10 mark.
Amherst, however, would not go away, pulling within a single point on three occasions down the stretch. Amherst missed a three-pointer for the lead with just six second left and an attempt to tie just before the buzzer on the subsequent possession as Benedictine split four free throws
"What a tough game tonight," Benedictine head coach Keith Bunkenburg said. "I want to congratulate Amherst for a great season. We are really honored to have played such a great program. It was a tough first half, but give credit to Amherst. The first five minutes of the second half was huge for us. I thought we did a better job of getting the ball inside and did a good job attacking the rim. I felt we played one of our best games of the year defensively, it was just a phenomenal effort."
Benedictine had four players score in double figures led by 15 from Michael Blaszczyk. Johnson added 10 rebounds for his 17th double-double of the year.
The appearance in the championship marks the first in school history for the men's basketball team and the second for any sport (women's volleyball,1988). The appearance will also mark the first time a school from the Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference has played for the title in any sport. Benedictine is the first unbeaten team to reach the championship game since UW-Platteville in 1998.