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William Penn Gives Up Lead, Falls in OT at NAIA Semis

By Jason Van Arkel, March 20, 2017

Leading 40-30 at halftime Monday night, William Penn had to feel confident that they were just 20 minutes away from beating Texas Wesleyan and earning a spot in the NAIA national championship game. In the end, it would take 25 minutes to break the Statesmen’s hearts.

Texas Wesleyan roared back in the second half, and in overtime, the Rams hit a baseline jumper with six seconds left to stun the Statesmen 83-82. The loss for #2 WPU ended an unpredictable semifinal night at the NAIA Tournament in Kansas City, after top-ranked and unbeaten LSU-Alexandria was upset by Life College of Georgia 65-63. A pair of 3-seeds will play for the national championship on Tuesday, while William Penn heads home.

The Statesmen had led most of the overtime period, beginning with Jarvis Haywood’s 3-pointer to give them a 78-75 lead. Texas Wesleyan briefly tied the game at 78, but Torren Jones scored inside to put William Penn back in front. Wesleyan pulled back within one, but moments later, Kevin Smith stole the ball, got fouled and hit a pair of free throws with 20 seconds left to make it 82-79.

Texas Wesleyan chose to go for a quick shot inside, and converted to set the score at 82-81. Lionel Ellison was fouled after WPU inbounded, but missed the front end of the one-and-one. Wesleyan rebounded and raced downcourt, getting the ball to Dion Rogers for the baseline jumper that put the Rams in front. William Penn was then unable to get a shot off in the final seconds.

It was a gut-wrenching finish for the Statesmen, especially the seniors. Haywood led William Penn with 22 points, and Jones scored 19 before fouling out. Smith, whose steal and free throws appeared to have put William Penn in control, finished with 16 points. Ellison ended with nine points, and while he had the missed free throw, WPU wouldn’t have gotten to overtime had he not hit the tying 3-pointer with one minute left in regulation.

William Penn ends the season with a record of 33-4.