Columbia College advances to American Midwest Conference Tournament finals

Saturday, March 3, 2012 | 8:15 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — Head coach Bob Burchard had a scary thought creep into his head during a late-game timeout.

He remembered the North Carolina basketball game on Feb. 8, when Duke won on a last second 3-pointer after erasing a North Carolina 10-point lead with just over two minutes left in the game. There was an eerie similarity between that game and the one he was coaching, Burchard said.

"You stay up late at night watching that game on ESPN, and you watch that lead disappear in that length of time, and then they break it down play, by play, by play," Burchard said. "So a 10-point lead ... I still have white knuckles."

With a little over two minutes left in the game at The Arena at Southwell Complex on Saturday, the No. 16 Columbia College men's basketball team led the Park University Pirates 69-59.

The Cougars, however, did not follow in the Tar Heels footsteps. After the timeout, Columbia College went on an 8-0 run to put the game out of the Pirates' reach.

The Cougars won their semifinal of the American Midwest Conference Tournament 78-64.

"You definitely want to end on a good note and that momentum will just carry over to the next game," senior guard Taylor Evans said. "We want to take that energy right to Tuesday."

A key to the Cougars finish was their desire to push the tempo even after the win seemed to be secure in the final seconds.

"We are not a team that seeks to get a lead and just maintain it," junior forward Hal Payne said. "We want to push and shove and run until the game is over."

The No. 1 seed Cougars hope to carry their momentum into the AMC Tournament finals against the No. 6 seed Hannibal-LaGrange Trojans, who upset the No. 3 seed Harris-Stowe and No. 2 seed Missouri Baptist to advance to the finals. The game will take place at 7 p.m. Tuesday at The Arena at Southwell Complex.

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