Final: (1) William Penn 85, (RV) Evangel 84 | Final Stats
Records: Evangel (15-7, 8-5); William Penn (21-1, 12-1)
Site: Ashcroft Center
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Evangel fought back from an early 16-point deficit against William Penn to battle the nation's top-ranked squad to the wire, before Malyk Thomas's go-ahead jumper with 1.6 seconds left in regulation lifted the Statesmen to an 85-84 victory over the Valor Saturday afternoon at the Ashcroft Center.
After a pair of Manrique Alvarado free throws handed EU an 84-81 lead with 29.8 ticks left on the clock, William Penn scored the game's final four points on a Reyhan Cobb bucket in the paint and Thomas's floater from the right side of the lane after the Valor failed to convert a pair of free-throw attempts with 8.4 seconds to play.
Josh Pritchett's desperation heave from beyond half court glanced off the backboard, sealing the Statesmen's 10th consecutive victory.
Led by Kevion Blaylock's 27 points, the Statesmen wiped out a five-point deficit of their own in the final three minutes, after the Valor used a 12-5 scoring run to seize its largest lead of the day.
Capping a back-and-forth second half that featured four ties and 14 lead changes, Evangel took a two-point lead on a Cade Coffman three-pointer with 5:13 left in the game, then stretched the margin to 80-75 when Alvarado converted a layup with just under two minutes to play.
But Blaylock scored on a drive to the basket, and Thomas delivered the first of his two critical field goals down the stretch to pull WPU to within one point with 1:47 remaining. Alvarado, who scored EU's last six points and led all Valor scorers with 21, sank two free throws to make it a three-point game again.
Evangel appeared to come up with what would have been a crucial defensive stop when Blaylock missed a jumper and Edriel Martinborough came away with the defensive rebound with just 31 seconds left on the clock. EU was whistled for a foul following the shot, however, and Blaylock hit both foul shots to make it a one-point game.
Blaylock finished the game 9-of-13 from the floor and 7-of-8 at the charity stripe, while Karmari Newman added 20 points for the Statesmen, who shot 0.491 (28-of-57) for the game.
The Valor's balanced attack included four players finishing in double figures, led by Alvarado's 7-of-12 effort from the field. Coffman chipped in with 16 and eight rebounds, while Stephen Salvi added 15 while hitting 4-of-7 from beyond the arc and Pritchett finished with 13.
The dramatic ending followed a torrid start to the game by the Statesmen, who appeared poised to run away with a lopsided victory after hitting five of their first six three-point attempts and going 7-of-10 from the field over the first six minutes to build a 20-4 advantage. Newman connected on his first three tries from long range over the first 1:35 of the game, and Blaylock added five points during the early blitz.
But Evangel fought back behind the play of Salvi, who tallied nine points during a 21-7 outburst that ultimately drew the Valor back to within a point by the eight-minute mark. Coffman came through for EU during the run as well, as the senior scored nine points in the opening stanza.
The Statesmen responded with three unanswered points to reclaim a four-point cushion, but EU ended the half on a 5-0 run to take a 39-38 lead into the locker room.
WPU opened the second half just as it started the game, scoring 16 of the first 25 points of the period to build a 54-47 lead—the largest for either club in the second half. Evangel went to work erasing its deficit, using a Jace Coffie trey and back-to-back buckets by Alvarado to pull to within two points. The same duo delivered moments later, as Coffie came up with a steal and Alvarado drained a three to give the Valor a 57-56 lead with 13:16 to play.
The two offenses alternated go-ahead field goals over the ensuing eight minutes, trading the lead a total of nine times until Coffman's three with just over five minutes to go gave EU a lead it would hold until Thomas's heart-breaking bucket sealed its fate.
Evangel forced 16 WPU turnovers and finished with a 29-5 scoring advantage in points off turnovers. The Valor shot 12-of-30 (0.400) from three-point range, as Alvarado and Salvi combined to knock down 7-of-12 attempts. EU hit just 12-of-21 (0.571) free-throw attempts, however.
Evangel will embark on a two-game road swing next week, beginning with a Wednesday (Feb. 2) evening trip to Baldwin City, Kan., for a 7:30 p.m., matchup with Baker.
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