ATLANTA (AP) – Alex Hall sank two free throws with 22.8 seconds remaining to help Drury rally from a 17-point deficit to beat Metro State 74-73 and win the Division II national championship on Sunday.
Metro State’s Mitch McCarron and Brandon Jefferson missed shots in the final seconds.
As Metro State coach Derrick Clark slammed the scorer’s table in frustration, Drury’s players converged in a wild midcourt celebration and soon were covered in confetti at Phillips Arena.
Drury (31-4), from Springfield, Mo., closed the season with 23 straight wins to win its first championship.
Hall led the Panthers with 21 points. Brandon Lockhart had 14 and Drake Patterson had 12.
Metro State (32-3) had 17 steals but appeared to tire in the closing minutes as it relied on its starters for all its points. Jefferson led the Roadrunners with 19 points. McCarron added 16 points, eight rebounds and seven steals.
Metro State, from Denver, was denied its third title. It won championships in 2000 and 2002.
With Metro State leading 73-71, Drury had a chance to tie or take the lead. Metro State’s McCarron’s stole the ball with 1:10 remaining, but he dribbled it out of bounds about 20 seconds later — giving it back to Drury.
The Roadrunners fouled Drury’s Cameron Adams, but he made only one of two free throws to cut the deficit to one.
Metro State led 39-22 late in the first half but Drury rallied by making nine of its first 12 shots in the second half, finally pulling even at 53-all on a 3-pointer by Lonnie Boga.
Hall’s 3-pointer with 9:31 remaining gave Drury a 59-58 lead — its first advantage since 6-5. Nicholas Kay had a quick answer with a layup for Metro State, followed by a steal and basket by McCarron.
Drury made almost half of its shots from the field (10 of 21) in the first half and still trailed 39-27.
Turnover problems were a big part of the Panthers’ problem. Drury had turnovers on its first two possessions, setting the pace for 12 first-half giveaways that set up 19 points for the Roadrunners.
Metro State had only four turnovers in the half that led to only two points for Drury.
The Roadrunners also established an early advantage near the basket. Led by the inside presence of big forward Jonathan Morse (6-8, 245), Metro State had extended possessions set up by its eight offensive rebounds in the first half.
Morse had 14 points and nine rebounds.
Metro State used a 9-0 run, capped by a steal and jam by McCarron, to take its big lead at 39-22.
The announced attendance at Philips Arena was 7,763. There was no charge for tickets.
– By CHARLES ODUM, AP Sports Writer
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