KANSAS CITY, Mo. – (Box score) Sixth-seeded Vanguard (Calif.) captured its first-ever NAIA Men's Basketball National Championship with a 70-65 win over No. 8-seeded Emmanuel (Ga.),Tuesday evening in the championship game of the 2014 Buffalo Funds-NAIA Division I Men's Basketball Championship in Municipal Auditorium.
Vanguard (32-6) becomes the second school from the Golden State Athletic Conference to win a NAIA Division I crown and gives the school its second national championship in any sport, joining the women's basketball team's title from 2008. Emmanuel (33-4) also claimed its first spot in the championship game in its fourth all-time appearance in the tournament, falling to 4-4 in its history.
"It feels amazing. We just praise God," said Vanguard head coach Rhett Soliday, who also won a national championship as an assistant coach at Concordia (Calif.) in 2003. "We said before this game, win or lose, that we're going to give Him the glory, because He made this a special season. This game doesn't define our season and it doesn't define Emmanuel's season. We just happened to be on the winning end tonight."
Championship Most Valuable Player Preston Wynne led the way for Vanguard with 20 points and six rebounds, while all-tournament honoree junior guard Chris Gorman added 18 points and five rebounds as the backcourt duo combined to hit all nine of their free throws. Junior forward Keith Mason chipped in with 11 points and shared game-high honors with 13 rebounds. Freshman forward Zach Allmon also pulled down 11 rebounds for Vanguard, which finished with a 49-47 edge on the glass.
A first half defined by tough defense led both teams to a slow start on their respective offensive ends. Emmanuel missed its first three shots and committed two turnovers, while Vanguard was just two of its first six from the floor. Emmanuel finished the half shooting 32.3 percent and Vanguard, which entered the title game shooting 46.0 percent from the field on the season, was held to 30.8 percent in the first half.
Emmanuel scored seven-straight points after allowing the first six to Vanguard as the teams traded the lead four times over a four-minute span. A three-pointer by Wynne, his only trifecta of the game on eight attempts, put Vanguard up 11-9 with 12:46 to play. The fourth lead change ended up being the final one of the contest as Vanguard led by as many as nine points in the first half before taking a four-point cushion into intermission, 29-25.
The lead grew to as many as 10 points for Vanguard at the 13:20 mark and reached that plateau two other times in the second half. Emmanuel closed to within two points with 3:51 remaining on a three-point play by Adrian Justice, but Noel Larkins hit two free throws with 1:03 left to give Vanguard its final 10-point cushion. Vanguard hit six free throws in the final minute to close out the game.
"Vanguard was the better team, they played really good basketball," said Emmanuel head coach TJ Rosene, who was named the winner of the Charles A. Krigel Award, given to coach of the team that best exhibits respect, civility, integrity and fair play, the qualities that define sportsmanship. "They guarded our guard penetration and were quicker to the ball. We have to give them a lot of credit."
All-tournament selection Michael Stanley led the way for Emmanuel with 19 points and matched Mason with 13 rebounds. Junior forward Patrick McCrary also recorded 10 points and nine rebounds as Emmanuel was held to 34.4 percent shooting for the game and committed 16 turnovers while led to a 15-4 advantage in points off turnovers for Vanguard.
Vanguard – The Golden State Athletic Conference put a team in the title game for the third time in the last five years and the seventh time since 2003 with Concordia (Calif.) winning it all in 2003 and 2012 … both Emmanuel and Vanguard were making their first-ever appearance in the national championship final. This is Vanguard's third all-time trip to the national championship tournament, while Emmanuel is in its fourth tournament ... Vanguard is the 53rd different program to win the title since the championship began in 1937 … The 32 wins on the season for Vanguard is the amount of combined wins for the Lions during the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons ... Vanguard finishes as winners in its last nine games on the year ... Preston Wynne scored at least 20 points for the seventh-straight game … Vanguard was held under 35 percent shooting for the first time since shooting 32.2 percent against Hope International on Feb. 22, one of the team's six losses on the season.
Chuck Taylor Most Valuable Player Award: Preston Wynne, Vanguard (Calif.)
Charles Stevenson Hustle Award: Luke Thomas, MidAmerica Nazarene (Kan.)
Dr. James Naismith-Emil S. Liston Sportsmanship Award: Vanguard (Calif.)
Charles A. Krigel Award*: TJ Rosene, Emmanuel (Ga.)
Chuck Walden Memorial Trophy (given to Honorary Coaches of championship team): Kansas Gas Service – Steve Maurin
Frank Cramer Award^: Jim Sloss
2013 - 14 NAIA Division I Men's Basketball Player of the Year: Dominique Rambo, SAGU (Texas)
2013 - 14 Rawlings-NAIA Division I Men's Basketball Coach of the Year: Rhett Soliday, Vanguard (Calif.)
* given to coach of the team that best exhibits respect, civility, integrity and fair play, the qualities that define sportsmanship
^ presented annually to the person or persons who has done the most for the basketball tournament during a period of years