Early on it did not look good for the Panthers as they trailed by as many as 17 points in the first half and were down by 12 going in to the half.
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Everything seemed to be working against the Panthers as they committed 12 first-half turnovers and were not handling the Metro State press well. Metro State was also 65-4 in Coach Derrick Clark’s career when leading at the half.
Despite this, the Panthers did not panic.
“We weren’t doing what we have done in the last month on offense. I thought we were taking some difficult shots. We were turning it over as well,” coach Steve Hesser said. “We got it back to 12 at halftime and, you know, I am an old high school coach. The big difference between high school and college to me is that even with big leads, the other team has to shoot it every time, so if we can get some shots and chip away. We talked about Louisville down 12 last night, which we were at with 11-12 minutes to go in the game.”
Chip away is exactly what the Panthers did with key stops thanks to switching to a full-court defense in the second half.
“It’s something we have done this whole season if we get down,” Lockhart said. “We will try to speed up the game making them speed up so they’re not as comfortable and that helps us because we can get out in transition and get some easy baskets. It turned us around in the second half.”
Drury whittled the lead down and took its first lead since 6-5 with 9:31 left in the game. Metro State would go on a bit of a run to take a six-point lead with 3:51 left in the game, but that would be the last time the Roadrunners would score.
Late Hall went aggressively for a rebound and was fouled.
“We were getting frustrated with letting them get to the boards and (I) look(ed) over at Coach and he’s beet red and I thought I have to get this, and when I went up, he came underneath me and the rest is history,” Hall said.
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Hall made it 74-73 with less than 30 seconds to go in the game and a timeout was called.
Hesser’s advice was simple.
“You have to get one stop,” Hesser said. “They put so much pressure on you. I thought our guys did a great job of leveling off the guard when he came off the ball screen, and we didn’t give them an opportunity to turn the corner. We talked to them about a lot of time the of the game last-second situation it’s not the first shot the kills you but it’s the second shot and they have been second-shooting us to death all day.”
After a furious stand, Drury came out the National Champion with a 74-73 win. The largest lead Drury had all day was that one-point margin.
Hall was named the NCAA Division II Tournament Most Valuble Player. Brandon Lockhart joined him on that team with three Metro State players.
Hall finished the game with a game-high 21 points. Lockhart had 14 points and nine assists. Drake Patterson and Ian Carter both got in to double figures for the Panthers as well with 12 and 10 points, respectively.
All of Metro State’s points were scored by their starters.
The Panthers end the season on a 23-game winning streak with the school’s first Division II National Title.