Hustlin' Owls win in 'Fab Four'; Headed to NAIA Title Game
(Courtesy: Oregon Tech Sports Information)
No. 8 ranked and No. 2 seeded Oregon Tech (28-7) outscored the No. 5 ranked and fellow No. 2 seed College of Idaho (31-6) 52-29 in the first half of their NAIA Semifinal matchup on Monday in the Sanford Pentagon, and the lead proved insurmountable for the Yotes as Tech won 93-81.
“Tremendous performance tonight,” remarked Head Coach Justin Parnell. “I’m so proud of these young men. They’ve done it their way. They’re a bunch of Oregon Tech Guys. We are thrilled for the opportunity to bring Oregon Tech and the Klamath Basin their 4th National Championship.”
The loss breaks a six-win streak for COI after they powered to the top of the CCC post-season tournament after their defeat at the hands of the Owls in regular-season Championship game. The Yotes fall in the semifinals for their second straight year. Their season ends 31-6.
With the win, OIT won its fourth in a row going into the National Championship game on Tuesday against Spring Arbor (Mich.) A win for Tech would bring them to four overall National Championships, making them the first team to do so.
The game promised to be a thriller, as the teams had split their previous two matchups this season with both games ending at only a 3-point margin.
College of Idaho started off strong, shooting a perfect 7-for-7 to keep the game neck-and-neck in the beginning of the first. However, halfway in the Hustlin’ Owls turned the tide as they pulled off a 24-1 run to take a 23-point lead to the locker room, holding the Yotes without a field goal for the final 10 minutes of the first stanza.
OIT made 22-of-35 on the half, shooting at a 62% average and holding the Yotes to just 11-of-30.
The second half opened with COI going on a 20 to 7 run to trim Tech’s lead to just 10, but a bucket from freshman Kaison Faust and a Seth Erickson three-pointer kicked off an 11-2 surge for the Owls as they rebuilt their lead.
College of Idaho managed to get within 10-points for a second time near the end of the game, but that was as close as they got as Erickson landed two free-throws to set the final score.
Erickson led the Hooters with 27 points, tying his career high for the third time this season. He also grabbed seven rebounds and shot 8-of-14 on the night, including 3-of-5 from long range and 8-of-10 from the charity stripe.
Faust followed with 19 points off the bench, shooting 7-of-9, along with junior Kellen Gerig and sophomore Garret Albrecht notched nine and seven points respectively, with Albrecht grabbing six rebounds.
OIT took a major 22-11 assisting advantage as junior Mitchell Fink – the NAIA’s No. 1 ranked player in assists per game – dished out 12 more, tallying 14 points to earn a double-double.
Nate Bruneel led the Yotes effort with 15 points, one of four to score in double digits. Bruneel also grabbed six rebounds and shot 3-for-5 from long range. Gibson Berryhill was close behind with 14 points before fouling out, and Talon Pinckney and Keun Palu-Thompson scored 13 and 12 respectively, while Pinckney also added six assists.
Connor Desaulniers went without scoring but added eight rebounds to give COI a slight 34-33 rebounding edge.
Oregon Tech’s bench held a 40-25 scoring advantage. The Owls as a team held a 44-32 edge in the paint, while forcing 15 turnovers while only committing 11 of their own – outscoring College of Idaho 25-14 in points off turnovers.
The Yotes shot 13-of-15 from the charity stripe, shooting 86.7% on the night to the Owl’s 65.5% average. OIT, on the other hand, had a 57.6% field goal average to outshoot COI’s 42.7%.
The Hustlin’ Owls will move on to the National Championship game Tuesday against Spring Arbor (29-7), with tipoff at 4:00 pm (PST) at the Sanford Pentagon. The game will be aired live on ESPN 3 and will be covered locally on 92.5 KLAD-FM with Bobby Thompson and Michael Garrard hosting. The Justin Parnell Coaches Show will start at 3:30 pm.