Campbell's Buzzer-Beater Sends Cavs To NAIA Final Four

Monday, March 24th 2014, 1:31 pm
By: News 9

St. Gregory's forward Josiah Campbell made a driving lay-up as time expired, and the No. 18-ranked Cavaliers upended No. 9 Freed-Hardeman (Tenn.), 84-82, Saturday in the quarterfinals of the NAIA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament.

St. Gregory's (24-9) moves on to its first-ever Fab Four Monday. Game time is set for 6 p.m. at Municipal Auditorium.

On the final play, Cavalier guard Trey Jones received the inbounds pass with five seconds left, drove nearly the length of the floor and dished to Campbell, who was cutting to the basket from the baseline. The senior from Oklahoma City finished the sequence, laying it in off the glass just before the buzzer sounded.

"Trey drew the defenders and then made a great pass," said Campbell, who finished with four points. "I just finished it. I knew I had scored it before the buzzer."

Officials confirmed the play via courtside video monitors, sending a large gathering of St. Gregory's fans into a frenzy behind the Cavalier bench.

The final play may not have occurred had it not been for a huge second-half performance from St. Gregory's junior guard Marty Wilkerson. His game played out eerily similar to Friday's quarterfinal when he scored 23 second-half points after being benched in the first due to foul trouble.

Wilkerson went scoreless in the first half again Saturday after playing only 5-plus minutes with two fouls, but turned it on with 32 in a back-and-forth second half that featured six ties and nine lead changes. He finished the half 13 of 22 – including 6 of 11 from three-point range.

"I just kept thinking that I didn't want our seniors to go out like this," said Wilkerson, who scored 30 of St. Gregory's final 39 points. "Every time I put it up, I felt like it was going in. I don't think I've ever had a half like that in my life."

Wilkerson kept the Cavs in it after Freed-Hardeman turned a 5-point deficit early in the second half into a 69-62 lead with 6:53 to play. At one point during that stretch, Wilkerson scored 20 consecutive points for St. Gregory's.

He made a three-pointer to pull the Cavs to within 69-65 with 5:55 remaining, and then completed a 13-3 run at the 3:47 mark with another three – this one from the top of the key. After the Lions tied it at 77 with 1:55 to go, he nailed yet another trey to make it 80-77.

Freed-Hardeman didn't go away, though, tying the game again at 82 on Kyle Teichmann's put-back with 5.3 seconds on the clock. That set up the final sequence for Jones and Campbell.

"(Wilkerson) is obviously a special player," said St. Gregory's coach John Martin. "He just had his touch today. When he gets going and gets in a rhythm, he is tough to defend."

Both St. Gregory's and Freed-Hardeman shot 40 percent for the game. The Lions had a 54-39 advantage on the boards which equated into a 28-10 edge in second-chance points. The Cavs countered by scoring 15 points off 14 Lion turnovers.

Wilkerson was one of three Cavs in double figures. T.J. Thornton had 14 points and six boards, and Jones finished with 12. Jaron Vierra chipped in with seven points and 11 rebounds.

St. Gregory's led 36-35 after a grinder of a first half that featured four ties and five lead changes. Neither team led by more than six in the first 20 minutes.

Freed-Hardeman took its largest lead of the half at 34-28 before the Cavs closed with an 8-1 spurt to regain the advantage.

St. Gregory's shot only 34 percent early on but held the Lions to 35 percent and forced eight turnovers. Like in the second round, Jones picked up the offensive slack in the first half. He scored nine – including 6-of-8 from the free-throw line.