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St. Gregory's Advances In NAIA Tourney

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KANSAS CITY, Missouri -

St. Gregory's senior Josiah Campbell had 11 points, 11 rebounds and four assists, leading the No. 18-ranked Cavaliers to an 84-69 win over No. 15 Wiley (Texas) Thursday in the first round of the NAIA National Championship in Kansas City.

The win at the national venue was a program-first for St. Gregory's, which qualified for the tournament after a 14-year hiatus. The Cavs move on to the second round at 12:30 p.m. Friday.

"I'm proud of this team," said sixth-year coach John Martin. "To come out and pick up the program's first win here is amazing. We're not finished, though. These guys want more."

St. Gregory's (22-9) used a big second-half run to separate itself in a tight game. With Wiley up 36-33 with 17:48 remaining, the Cavs went on a 22-6 spurt over the next six minutes – capped by a Jaron Vierra trey from the top of the key to make it 55-42.

St. Gregory's connected on 9-of-13 shots during that span. The Cavs changed the momentum after a first half in which they committed nine turnovers and shot only 37 percent from the floor.

"We knew (Wiley) was going to come out pressuring the ball," Martin said. "We just didn't handle it well early. I told the guys at halftime that we needed to stress taking care of the ball. When we started doing that in the second half, we began having success."

Campbell increased the advantage to 66-53 with 6:40 to go on a free throw, but Wiley made a push to get back into the game. The Wildcats scored the next six points, and the Cavalier lead dwindled to seven with 5:04 left.

It was 70-63 at the 3:58 mark when St. Gregory's put it away. Campbell scored five points over the next 2:15 to keep Wiley at arm's length, and the Cavs closed the game's final 2:25 by going on an 11-3 run.

"I think we were a little nervous coming out, but everyone knew what was at stake and we started playing our game and executing," said Campbell, who made seven free throws and was 2-for-2 from the floor. "We've got to stay locked in. We want to play a lot more games here."

St. Gregory's leading scorer, Marty Wilkerson, finished with a team-high 20 points on 7-of-13 shooting. Vierra was 6 of 13 for 17 points, and Thornton totaled 14 for the Cavs.

St. Gregory's shot 46 percent for the game – including 54 percent in that decisive second half – and made 8 of its 18 three-point attempts (44 percent).

The Cavs held the Wildcats, who came in averaging 87 points per contest, to only 35 percent from the floor and their fourth-lowest scoring total of the season. St. Gregory's outscored Wiley 36-24 in the paint.

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