Saints earn highest finish at MCCC Tournament in 36 years
It was not the result the Saints wanted, but a rare feat nonethless.
After falling to Ozark Christian College on Friday in the semifinals of the Midwest Christian College Conference Tournament, the Central Christian College men's basketball team topped Calvary University, 76-75, on Saturday for their highest finish in the event since 1982, when CCCB also finished third.
The top-seeded Saints were MCCC regular season co-champions with Barclay College and Emmaus Bible College. It was a rough tournament for all three co-champions as No. 3 seed Emmaus lost to No. 6 seed Calvary in the opening round, while Central Christian lost to No. 5 seed Ozark Christian, 72-65, in the semifinals. Ozark Christian went on to knock off No. 2 seed Barclay, 76-70, on Saturday to win the championship.
Central Christian (14-13) wasn't quite themselves on Friday as the NCCAA Division II leaders in field goals and 3-point field goals shot just 39 percent from the field and 12 percent (3-for-25) from 3-point range against Ozark Christian. Despite the low shooting numbers, the Saints still had their chances thanks to the Ambassadors shooting just 36 percent and 6 percent (1-for-16) from the outside.
The game saw five ties and 12 lead changes with Ozark leading by as many as 10 in the first half and Central Christian leading by eight with 14 minutes to play in the second.
Kedron Rollings and Jaimes Rodriguez led the Saints with 17 points each.
Bryce Money and Tanner Moore scored 15 points each to lead Ozark Christian.
On Saturday, Central Christian took the lead early and remained in control until an 11-2 run by Calvary in the final minute made things interesting.
Leading 74-64 with 1:10 reamining, the Warriors made four 3-pointers and a layup while the Saints made just two of seven free throw attempts. With 11 seconds to go Calvary's Jay Lems nailed the final of four straights 3s to make it a one point game, but Central Christian got the ball in bounds and ran out the clock to seal the win.
Jesse Granados led the Saints with 19 points while going 4-for-5 from behind the arc. Jaime Rodriguez added 18 points and Micah Miller had 14. Josh Crawford pulled down a season-high 12 rebounds.
The Saints shot below their average for the second day-in-a-row at 39 percent, but recorded nine steals on the defensive end and forced 16 Calvary turnovers. Central Christian committed only four turnovers for the game.
The third place finish was just the third overall and the fourth top-three finish in men's basketball history for the Saints in the 55-year history of the MCCC Tournament. A week ealier they became regular season co-champions for the first time in program history. CCCB has never won the MCCC Tournament on the men's basketball side.
On Friday, three Saints earned all-conference honors. Josh Crawford was named to the second team, while Granados and Rollings were first team selections.
The Saints' postseason continues on Thursday when they travel to Joplin, Mo., for the NCCAA Division II Southwest Region Tournament. Central Christian is seeded sixth and will face the No. 3 seed Arlington Baptist University at 2 p.m.