KANSAS CITY — Patric Massey couldn’t bear to look.
After fouling out with just over two minutes remaining in regulation, the Columbia College senior forward sat on the bench, head buried in his hands. Meanwhile, MidAmerica Nazarene forward Brandon Newton banged home a free throw to increase the Pioneers’ lead to eight.
Though the Cougars wouldn’t give in — even narrowing the deficit to two on a Derrick Dilworth 3-pointer with 17 seconds left — they wouldn’t catch the Pioneers (25-10), who defeated No. 4 Columbia (32-3) 80-75 in the second round of the NAIA National Tournament.
“To be honest with you it came down to a couple possessions,” coach Bob Burchard said. “We didn’t have a couple go our way. It might have been a turning point in the game when we got in foul trouble.”
In a back-and-forth game that featured 15 lead changes, MidAmerica used its ability to get to the free throw line to upset the Cougars. The Pioneers made 36 of the 44 free throws they attempted Friday at Municipal Auditorium. Meanwhile, Columbia committed 27 total fouls.
“I think the biggest thing was they were getting a lot of offensive rebounds and on their way back up we fouled them,” senior guard Devin Griffin said. “Their bigs did a really good job. I think they worked harder than us toward the end.”
Columbia started the second half with a 39-34 lead, but struggled to contain MidAmerica's offensive attack after the break. MidAmerica got its first lead of the second half on a Justin Randall layup that put the Pioneers ahead 49-48 with just over 12 minutes left. The lead continued to change hands until forward Connor Langrehr’s jumper in the paint gave MidAmerica the lead for good with 4:46 remaining.
“It was real tough to deal with their bigs,” Griffin said. “They had a couple powerhouse guys in there. They’re a good team.”
Griffin, who scored a game-high 26 points, was one of four Cougars in double figures. Massey scored 11 points to go along with eight rebounds, and fellow senior Dilworth scored 14.
“Right now I’m not feeling too bad,” Griffin said. “Overall we had a great run. This year we finished 32-3. That’s still an outstanding year.”