SALEM, Va.—Junior Hunter Hill (Byron, Ill.) scored 12 of his 18 points in the second half, and Augustana College closed the game on a 25-3 run over the final seven minutes to defeat fourth-ranked Babson College, 68-48, in a NCAA Division III Men's Basketball Tournament National Semifinal on Friday night at the Salem Civic Center.
After making just four of its first 15 shots to open the second half, Augustana (27-4) made six straight shots, including four three-point field goals, to punch its ticket to the national championship game for the first time since 1993. Babson, which had won 17 consecutive games, concludes its season at 29-3 after reaching the NCAA Division III Final Four for the first time in program history.
Hill added four rebounds and four assists, while junior Griffin Pils (Libertyville, Ill.) scored 10 points for the Vikings. Senior Nic Hoepfner (East Moline, Ill.) added nine points, three rebounds and two assists, while junior Brandon Motzel (Buffalo Grove, Ill.) finished with eight points, six boards and a game-high four steals.
Sophomore Joey Flannery (Acton, Mass.) poured in a game-high 27 points on 10-of-19 shooting to go along with six rebounds and two assists to lead the Beavers. Senior David Mack (Holden, Mass.) contributed eight points, three boards and three assists, while classmate John Wickey (Manchester, N.H.) tied for game-high honors with four assists.
Augustana started 6-of-10 from the floor to build a 16-5 lead on a layup by junior Jawan Straughter (Bolingbrook, Ill.) with 12:09 to go in the opening stanza. The Green and White ripped off a quick 8-0 run though, getting four points from Flannery, to cut its deficit to 16-13 on a hoop by senior Eric Dean (Gilford, N.H.) at the 9:25 mark.
The Vikings, who scored 14 points off turnovers in the first half, held Babson to just one field goal over the final nine minutes of the first half, and took a 32-19 lead into the locker room on a putback by Motzel just before the buzzer.
The Beavers came flying out of the locker room, making five of their first six shots to get within 36-31 on a three-point play by Flannery with 14:52 to go in the game. Augustana pushed its lead back to 40-33 on a pair of free throws by Motzel, but Flannery scored going to the hoop and then converted a three-point play to make it 40-38.
Babson tied the game at 41-41 on a jumper by first-year Bradley Jacks (Fort Washington, Md.), and pulled even again on a layup by sophomore Sam Bohmiller (Franklin, Mass.) with 7:58 to play. Flannery was fouled going for a rebound on the following possession, and knocked down a pair at the line to give the Green and White its first lead of the game at 45-43 with 7:51 to go.
Pils canned a three-pointer to put the Vikings back in front, but Flannery answered with a bucket to put the Beavers ahead for the final time at 47-46 with 6:42 left. Augustana scored on its next five possessions, including a pair of treys and a step-back pull-up from Hill to cap a 13-1 burst that made it 59-48 with just over three minutes left.
The Green and White shot 40 percent (18-of-45) from the floor, but were just 2-of-13 from beyond the arc. The Beavers did finish with a 32-24 edge in the paint.
The Vikings shot 42.6 percent (23-of-54) from the floor and made four of their five three-pointers during the decisive second-half run. Augustana also scored 26 points off of 18 Babson turnovers.
The Vikings will take on either Virginia Wesleyan or Wisconsin-Stevens Point for the 2015 Division III national championship on Saturday at 3 p.m.
GAME NOTES: The Beavers' 29 victories and their 17-game winning streak were both program records…with his 27 points, Flannery set a new single-season scoring record with 689 points…with three points on Friday night, Wickey moved into ninth place on the program's all-time list with 1,398 points…he also finishes his career seventh all-time with 721 career rebounds…Mack ends his career with 487 rebounds, good for 15th on the school's all-time list…the Babson senior class went 77-36 over their four-year career, including a 49-10 mark over the last two years.