SPRINGFIELD, Mass. » Brigham Young-Hawaii and West Liberty played as if they were in a pick-up game at the local park. The stakes were much higher, of course, in their NCAA Division II national semifinal showdown last night.
DIVISION II NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP
» Who: BYU-Hawaii vs. Bellarmine
» When: 7 a.m. tomorrow
» TV: KGMB, Ch. 7
» Radio: KHKA, 1500-AM
Jet Chang poured in 43 points as the Seasiders went toe-to-toe with the highest-scoring team in the country. When the clock struck zero, BYU-Hawaii was standing tall with a 110-101 victory.
The Seasiders (22-8) will play Bellarmine, an 81-74 winner over Minnesota State-Mankato, for the national title at 7 a.m. tomorrow.
Bellarmine (32-2) is the No. 2 team in the country, although that won’t intimidate the Seasiders, who knocked off the nation’s No. 1 team.
“I played the best game of my life,” Chang said. “I was able to get a lot of good shots off, but I also found a way to get my teammates involved, too. It’s a dream come true to have a chance to play for a national title.”
The Seasiders knocked the Hilltoppers (33-1) on their heels early and turned this game into a fast-paced thriller.
By the time the opening 20 minutes were in the books, the Seasiders were in front 58-47.
The Hilltoppers would take a 73-72 lead when Chris Morrow sliced into the lane, caught a pass from Alex Falk and made a layup.
But the Seasiders stretched their lead back to double digits when Marques Whippy scored on a layup to give his team an 87-77 advantage with 8:38 remaining.
“We played with a lot of heart, but BYU ran right through us,” West Liberty coach Jim Crutchfield said. “They did a great job out there and they are so well-coached. And when you turn a guy like Chang loose, he is going to hurt you.”
Chang set a career high in points, and his seven 3-pointers tied him for the most in an Elite Eight game.
Jake Dastrup nailed four treys and dropped in 18 points for the Seasiders, while Gary Satterwhite and Whippy scored 14 points each and Heath Gameren added 10.
Corey Pelle led the Hilltoppers, scoring 32 points.
“It was an incredible game,” BYU-Hawaii coach Ken Wagner said. “I am proud of my young men. We love to run up and down the floor and we felt like we were able to control the tempo. We beat a very good basketball team tonight.”
The Seasiders have won their past five games.
“We’ve had some disappointments along the way, but we are so excited about playing for the title,” Wagner said. “These guys have worked so hard and I’ve enjoyed having a chance to coach these young men. They have really come together to be a great team.”