By Steve Keenan
For The Register-Herald
Seeking to return to the NAIA National Tournament for the first time since 1988, the WVU Tech men instead were thwarted by their own arctic outside shooting and the continued inspired play of Voorhees College.
No. 4 seed Voorhees, located in Denmark, S.C., held off No. 2 seed WVU Tech in a frantic finish to post a 65-64 victory over the Golden Bears in the Association of Independent Institutions tournament and advance to the NAIA national event, set for March 13-19 in Kansas City, Mo.
The previous day, Voorhees had upset No. 1 Cal State-San Marcos.
“It’s been a long journey,” said an elated Voorhees coach Michael Cheaney. “I took the job three years ago and we were 5-22. We had to (undergo) a fast rebuilding (effort).”
With a 22-9 record, Voorhees was knocked out by Cal State-San Marcos last year and didn’t make it to the national tourney. “We had to get better.”
“This season was up-and-down and we had injuries,” Cheaney said. “I thought we were out of tournament chances.
“We’ve been preaching for (the players) to believe in each other.”
The Tigers led 63-56 on a two-point goal from Jeffrey Evans, who delivered 18 points and eight rebounds in the title contest to earn the men’s Most Outstanding Player award, at the 3:38 mark. The lead stood at 65-60 at the 1:26 mark, but Tech pulled to within two points, 65-63, on a Terrale Clark free throw with 1:01 to go. Clark next added another single charity toss to make it 65-64 before Voorhees had possession with 25.2 seconds left.
Tech’s Eddie Gordon forced a turnover on the press, but Clark missed from the right corner and Voorhees retained possession with 8.8 seconds left. The Tigers’ Travis Dupreee misfired on the front end of a one-and-one and Gordon grabbed the rebound and proceeded down the floor. A pass to the Bears’ Armond Perez resulted in a tie-up as the buzzer went off, but game officials ruled that 0:0.3 seconds be put back on the clock. Tech inbounded but couldn’t get a clean try at a winning field goal attempt.
“We ran a tip play we call baseline winner,” said Tech coach Bob Williams, explaining that rules don’t allow a dunk attempt in that particular situation. “Armond (Perez) has good hands and we were hoping if he got near the rim he could tip it in.”
It didn’t happen, though, and Voorhees (22-11) advanced to Kansas City.
Tech shot just 31.0 percent overall (18-of-58) and 22.2 percent (6-of-27) from 3-point territory for the game.
“They shot 58 percent in the second half,” Williams said of Voorhees. “They made shots and had some big rebounds down the stretch.
“We didn’t make shots … and we were getting good shots.”
Voorhees trailed 30-26 at halftime but scored 15 of the first 21 points of the second half to gain a 41-36 margin at the 15:43 mark.
“The first five minutes of the second half really cost us,” said Williams. “We got behind and had to play catch-up.”
Clark, a senior, led the attack for Tech (20-12) with 19 points, while fellow senior David Rawlinson, the A.I.I. men’s player of the year, scored 15 points, leaving him three points shy of the 1,000-point plateau for his two-year Tech career.
Williams said Voorhees “did a great job on David Rawlinson. It’s probably the best anybody’s played on him defensively here.”
With Tech trailing 55-46, Rawlinson nailed two 3-pointers, a 2-pointer and a free throw to help the Bears pull to within six points, 61-55, with 4:58 left.
“It’s greatly disappointing to get this close,” said Williams. “We had a great group of kids (who are) good, true student-athletes.
“It really was a fun season. This is maybe the most fun I’ve had at Tech.”
Dominick Steverson 2-6 0-0 5, Sam Dotson 4-9 0-0 10, Brandon Allen 4-12 0-6 8, Jeffrey Evans 7-12 1-2 18, Willie Waters 4-5 1-1 9, Travis Dupree 4-6 1-2 9, Ricardo Rivera 0-2 1-2 1, Andre Datcher 0-1 0-0 0, James Williams 2-4 0-0 5. Totals: 27-57 4-13 65.
WVU Tech (20-12)
David Rawlinson 4-11 5-6 15, Jaren Marino 1-7 3-4 5, Terrale Clark 3-13 13-16 19, Brandon Burgraff 2-7 0-0 6, Floyd Campbell 1-3 1-2 3, Kornilous Donnell 2-5 0-0 5, Armond Perez 3-4 0-0 6, Eddie Gordon 2-8 0-0 5. Totals: 18-58 22-28 64.
V 26 39 — 65
WVT 30 34 — 64
3-point goals — V: 7-23 (Steverson 1-4, Dotson 2-6, Allen 0-3, Evans 3-5, Rivera 0-1, Datcher 0-1, Williams 1-3); WVT: 6-27 (Rawlinson 2-5, Marino 0-2, Clark 0-6, Burgraff 2-6, Donnell 1-4, Gordon 1-4). Fouled out — V: Waters.