POINT LOOKOUT, Mo. -- The sixth-seeded Bellevue University men's basketball team wasn't ready to see their season come to a close in the Sweet Sixteen round of the NAIA Division II National Tournament as they rallied to defeat seventh-seeded York College, 78-76, on Friday evening at Keeter Gymnasium on the campus of College of the Ozarks.
The Bruins overcame a 16-point second half deficit and scored seven of the game's final nine points to claim a dramatic victory over a shocked York team. It was the third time this season that BU and York had met on the hardwood with the Bruins exacting some revenge after dropping the first two games between the two sides.
Shortly after halftime York got out to their biggest lead of the game, 44-28 at the 18:33 mark but three-straight BU three-pointers brought the Bruins back within striking distance at 44-37.
Bellevue pulled within three points on a Hail Mary heave from Nick Hilton with the shot clock expiring with 10:36 to go. After getting a turnover at the other end Blake Wilder collected a missed shot and made a lay-in to cut the lead to 56-55 at the 10:15 mark.
BU tied the game at 62-62 on a three from Jerred Cook. Then, one possession later, the Bruins grabbed their first lead since the score was 5-4 on a corner three from Cardenas, his sixth of the game, to go up 65-64. The lead was short-lived as York hit a three at the other end to regain the advantage.
Nick Hilton got a wide open layup off a missed defensive assignment on an inbounds play to pull Bellevue within a point at 74-73 with 1:17 to play. On the ensuing possession, Jerred Cook pass faked and hit a three-pointer to give Bellevue a 76-74 lead with 35 seconds showing on the clock.
York then called a timeout to set up an offensive set but Cameron Coleman missed a layup and Mike Cardenas pulled down the rebound and was tied up. The possession arrow gave the ball to the Bruins with 20.1 seconds showing on the clock.
On the inbounds pass, Cardenas pushed his way into the front court but was stripped from behind. Fortunately, Cook was in position to pick up the loose ball and the 93.1 percent free throw shooter knocked down both tries from the charity stripe to give the Bruins a two-possession lead.
Coleman scored a quick hitter on the other end before Jaffrey Stillman missed the front end of a one-and-one to give the Panthers life. York received a throw in with 1.6 seconds left after a missed shot went off a Bruin defender for a last chance shot. The inbounds pass was tipped and York never got off a shot as BU advanced to the Elite Eight for the first time since their Final Four run in 2010.
With the victory, Bellevue (24-10) advances to the Elite Eight where they will meet the winner of #1-seed Bethel (Ind.) and #4-seed Eastern Oregon on Saturday at 5 p.m.
York concludes their season with an overall record of 25-10.
In the first half, Cardenas picked up where he left off last night hitting three quick three-pointers in the first 8:08 of the game but the Bruins made just 5-of-21 field goals over the final 11:02 of the first half. As a result, York out-scored BU 20-10 to take a 39-28 lead into the intermission.
Cardenas and York's Johnny Cooksey led all scorers with nine points each in the first half.
Cardenas went for a game-high 24 points which included six three-pointers while Cook (16 points) and Hilton (15 points) canned four and three treys, respectively. Wilder added six points and five rebounds, Stillman chipped in five points and six boards, and Jalen Hall dished out a game-best seven assists.
Cooksey led York with 17 points while Coleman finished with 13 points and 15 rebounds to notch a double-double. Keith Mack added 12 points, Drelan Tripplett dumped in 11, and Trevor Lenear supported with nine.
Bellevue again turned their depth into a bench scoring advantage (36-25) and secured victories in two major hustle point categories – second chance points (12-7) and points off turnovers (11-8) – while owning the glass to the tune of a 50-40 edge on the window.
- Bellevue advances to their sixth Elite Eight
- The Elite Eight appearance is the first for the Bruins since 2010
- Bellevue is now 23-17 (.575) all-time in the NAIA National Tournament
- BU is seeking their first Final Four appearance since 2010 and fourth overall
- The Bruins are 1-1 against potential Elite Eight opponent Bethel (Ind.) with both previous match-ups coming in the NAIA National Tournament (Won in 2008; Lost in 2009)
- Bellevue has never played against potential Elite Eight opponent Eastern Oregon