Walnut Ridge, Ark. – The American Midwest Conference quarterfinal matchup between the Eagles of Williams Baptist College and the William Woods University Owls had everything one could want in a tournament contest. A rowdy crowd at the Southerland-Mabee Center in Walnut Ridge saw their Eagles advance to the semifinals with a 70-68 victory on Thursday night.
The lead changed hands 13 times throughout the game, and neither team led by more than eight in the second half. A long two-point shot by LaCharleston Tumblin with 3.0 seconds remaining proved to be the decisive blow.
"L.A. Tumblin gave us a spark off the bench all night long. He called his final shot, he said, 'coach put me in' and Coach Holder and I decided to trust him, and the rest is history as he hit that shot," said Head Coach Josh Austin.
Tumblin had a total of 11 points on the season before the contest, and finished Thursday's game with seven.
The game started slow for the Eagles, as the Owls opened it by making their first five shots, giving them a 12-2 lead within five minutes. WBC would not panic after being down by as many as 12 early in the first half. Instead they would finish the half on an 18-8 run to garner their first lead at 36-35 going to the half.
"We didn't play aggressive offensively, we were settling for too many jump shots at the beginning," said Austin, "Defensively, we were not getting in their faces and it allowed them to make wide open jumpers."
The Eagles had the lead for almost the entire second half, but the Owls went up by two with 30 seconds remaining. A strong defensive possession for WBC led to a rebound by Phillip Sykes, who threw a full court pass to Kyle Harvey, and Harvey finished at the other end, tying the game at 68 with 26 seconds remaining.
"Phillip has so much heart and to take that risk on the pass showed great will to win," said Austin. "Kyle made a fantastic catch and basket."
Woods would miss another shot on the offensive end before the ball went out of bounds to the Eagles with 10 ticks remaining. After a timeout, WBC inbounded the ball to Zabian Sanders who went the length of the court before finding Tumblin for the game winner. Sanders finished the game with a steal on the final possession before being dog piled by teammates and the Eagles Nest student section.
"The students inspired the whole team and us coaches. They were unbelievable tonight. That was huge," said Austin.
Six players scored at least seven points for the Eagles. Harvey led the way with 21 points. He went 8-of-15 from the floor in the contest. Following him were Sanders with 14 points, Sykes with 10 points, and Chase Norwood with nine. Tumblin and Rashad Danzy added seven points apiece. The only other player to score for Williams was Maurice Templeton with two points.
Williams guard Devin Hall was honored before the game for achieving Academic All-Conference.
The victory sets a single season win total record for WBC since the school moved to a four-year status. The 19-11 Eagles will face the NAIA's number one ranked team in the semifinals Saturday. They will travel to Columbia, Mo., to play against the Cougars of Columbia College for a spot in the AMC finals.