Eagles drop OT heartbreaker to Shorter in NCCAA title game

A disappointed OC senior Devan White sits on the court watching the awards ceremony following the Eagles' loss to Shorter in the NCCAA title game.
A disappointed OC senior Devan White sits on the court watching the awards ceremony following the Eagles' loss to Shorter in the NCCAA title game.

By Murray Evans
WINONA LAKE, Ind. (March 16, 2013) – It came down to this: a miracle 3-pointer went in the basket for Shorter (Ga.), but not for Oklahoma Christian. And by that quirk of fate, the Eagles lost a national championship.

OC led almost all the way in regulation, but a fallaway heave at the buzzer by Shorter’s Walter Hill forced overtime and the Hawks took advantage to win 90-87 in the National Christian College Athletic Association Championship men’s basketball title game on Saturday afternoon at the Orthopaedic Capital Center.

The Eagles had one last chance in the final seconds, but senior Devan White’s open 22-footer hit the front of the rim and bounced away, denying OC (19-12) another chance for a win in its first-ever national-championship game.

“We played well,” OC coach Dan Hays said. “Shorter is very good. It’s just a shame that we couldn’t come away with that championship, but we gave it everything we had. It’s going to be a long ride home.

“It just didn’t work out.”

The game had so many twists and turns it would be nearly impossible to mention them all. OC led for all but 1:33 of regulation, by as many as nine points. Even after the Eagles’ leading scorer, 6-foot-10 Will Reinke, fouled out with 1:45 left in regulation, OC led 75-71.

Nick Tate made two clutch free throws with 20.2 seconds left to put the Eagles up 77-74. Shorter took a timeout with 13.1 seconds left to set up a play. Hill missed his first attempt, but the rebound went to Dedric Ware, who also missed. The ball caromed into the corner, where Hill corralled it and threw it toward the basket. Somehow, it went in and the Hawks had new life.

“It’s just so unfortunate for these guys,” Hays said. “Number one, we had to play that time without Will. That certainly didn’t help us. We force them to shoot tough, tough shots in that last 13 seconds. Bad shot, the first one, we can’t get a rebound. Second shot, which rolled around and we can’t get a rebound, and then … the third shot.”

Shorter built a 90-84 lead with 1:04 left in overtime, but the Eagles had one last rally. Eric Randall hit a 3-pointer to slice that margin in half. After a defensive stop, Kendre Talley drove for a layup and his shot was blocked against the backboard by Hill – a play that could have been called goaltending but wasn’t. Shorter rebounded, forcing White to foul Marquis King with 7.6 seconds left.

King missed both free throws and White rebounded. He got the ball to Talley, who passed it back to White for an open shot that fell just short.

“We got about as good a look as we could,” Hays said. “You’ve just got to take it. It hit the front of the rim. It was a good shot.”

Reinke scored 20 points, including six in the opening three minutes that staked the Eagles to an 8-2 lead. They led 33-25 after a layup by Talley 2:16 before halftime, but Shorter closed the half on a 5-0 spurt.

The Hawks took their first lead at 34-33 on two free throws with 18:19 left by Anthony Banks, who scored 26 points. Talley answered with two free throws 16 seconds later, starting a 6-0 OC run.

A 3-pointer by Randall gave OC its biggest lead at 57-48 with 11:41 left. Ware suddenly got hot and hit three 3-pointers in a three-minute span, with the last putting Shorter ahead 65-64. Again, the Eagles immediately answered, as Reinke’s hook shot put OC back on top. OC extended that lead to six points before Reinke fouled out.

Up 75-72, OC had the ball with 30.1 seconds and appeared to catch a break when Shorter was called for a kicked ball, resetting the shot clock from six to 15 seconds, but the Eagles threw away the inbounds pass and Kenny Leverette scored with 25.7 seconds left for Shorter.

Six OC players scored in double figures, led by Reinke, who added nine rebounds and four blocked shots and made the all-tournament team. Willie Harper and Talley scored 13 points each, Randall had 12, Brandon Troutman had 11 and Tate had 10. The rebounding battle – which OC’s coaches said would be crucial – went to Shorter by a 41-36 count.

Ware also scored 26 points for Shorter, while Hill had 13 and Leverette had 10 to go with nine rebounds and seven assists.

The game was the final one in an OC uniform for three seniors – Reinke, Troutman and White. The three led an OC team that won two national-tournament games in the same season for the first time in the program’s history.

Reinke finished his three-year OC career with 1,527 points, 20th on OC’s all-time scoring list, one point behind another three-year standout, Devin Nightengale (1999-2002). Reinke also blocked 220 shots for OC, second on the career list in that category behind Micah Miles, who had 229 blocks from 2004 to 2007.

“I told them that a week ago, we didn’t even know if we were coming (to the national tournament),” Hays said. “Life goes on. Hopefully we’ll be back. We got to a national final, so that’s a good thing.”