Roadrunners punch ticket to NAIA title game, beating Talladega 6 - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Roadrunners punch ticket to NAIA title game, beating Talladega 64-54

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – (NAIA Media Relations) No. 6-seeded Dalton State (Ga.) earned a chance to play for a national championship with its 64-54 win over No. 2-seeded Talladega (Ala.), Monday evening in the semifinal round of the 2015 Buffalo Funds-NAIA Division I Men's Basketball National Championship in Municipal Auditorium. The Roadrunners will face the winner of No. 1-seeded Hope International (Calif.) and Westmont (Calif.) on Tuesday, March 23 at 7:00 p.m.

“I came here expecting to compete for a national championship,” said Dalton State head coach Tony Ingle. “Where were we going if I didn't believe we could get here? We believed that if we had the talent we would have the support and the resources to get us here.”

Preston Earle led the way for Dalton State (31-4) with 15 points and eight rebounds, while Anthony Hilliard recorded 14 points and five steals. Jamaine Burrey came off the bench to chip in with 10 points, and Ladaris Green led the rebounding effort with 10 boards to couple with eight points.

A game dominated by strong defensive play from both teams saw each extensively use a zone defense to disrupt the offensive flow. Neither team shot above 40 percent in either half and combined to miss 71 shots from the field as well as commit 16 turnovers apiece.

Talladega seized the early advantage, jumping out to a six-point advantage just over five minutes into the game. Brandon Peters knocked down back-to-back three-point shots after Jamarqus Jones had tied the game with a steal and conversion in transition. Dalton State battled back to grab a six-point lead of its own with 8:35 until halftime on two free throws by Jordan Bowling, before the two teams settled for a deadlocked 29-29 scoreline at the break.

The Tornadoes again seized the early advantage after the intermission with a five-point cushion and restored the six-point lead with 8:14 remaining off of a putback by Shondel Stewart. Hilliard delivered his own set of consecutive three-point shots for the Roadrunners to tie the game just over a minute later, the last of nine ties in the contest.

“Our guys stayed focused and persevered,” said Ingle, who won a NCAA Division II national championship at Kennesaw State (Ga.) in 2004 as the No. 6 seed. “We are usually pretty good under pressure and tonight they were great late in the game.”

Peters scored on the next trip down for Talladega for its last lead of the game before Dalton State swung the momentum its way for good. Burrey knocked down a three-pointer with 5:39 to play to spark a 7-0 run that he finished off with a free throw. Pierre ended a four-minute scoring drought for the Tornadoes with a bucket inside, but the Roadrunners made 11 of 12 free throws in the final 1:35 to prevent a comeback attempt.

Stewart was the only Talladega player to score in double figures, recording 17 points to go along with 10 rebounds. Peters and Charles Winborne finished with nine points apiece, while Orlando Johnson tallied eight rebounds.

“You got to give credit to Dalton State tonight,” said Talladega head coach Matt Cross. “They stepped up and made the plays down the stretch like we did versus Pikeville on Saturday (in the semifinal round). I couldn't be more proud of these young men I coached this year.”

Talladega finished its season with a record of 32-5.

Game Notes:
Dalton State – Dalton State becomes the first championship rookie since Science & Arts (Okla.) in 2001 to appear in the national title game in its first championship trip… Stands 4-0 in its first-ever national championship appearance… The basketball program is in its second-year of varsity existence and first year being championship eligible… Becomes the third-straight No. 6 seed to advance to the final… The 61 points scored is the least amount for a semifinal winner since Columbia's (Mo.) 60 points in the 2009 Fab Four… Prior to tonight, scored an average of 87.3 points in three previous championship games…Coming into the game, had second-most blocks of the tournament with 14, the Roadrunners had zero tonight… The Roadrunners are attempting to become the second-straight No. 6 seed to win the national championship (Vanguard (Calif.) in 2014)…LaDaris Green entered the game ranked No. 2 in the NAIA in rebounding (11.7) – he finished with 10 rebounds... Looking to become the first championship newcomer to win the title in its first season since Charleston (S.C.) in 1983.

Talladega – Playing in first-ever semifinal in their third overall trip… Drops to 4-3 in the national championship… Defeated unseeded Rocky Mountain (Mont.) in the First Round; unseeded Our Lady of the Lake (Texas) in the Second Round and No. 7 seeded Pikeville (Ky.) in the Quarterfinals… Becomes the third No. 2 seed in the last four years to advance to the semifinal round… Talladega ends its season as winners in 27 of their final 29 games… The Tornadoes were ranked each week in the NAIA Division I Top 25 poll, reaching as high as No. 1 for three weeks and never falling below sixth… The 54 points scored was the least amount since a 54-52 loss to St. Thomas (Fla.) on Dec. 29, 2012 during the regular-season.

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