POINT LOOKOUT, Mo. – (Box Score)- No.9 Davenport punched its ticket into the quarterfinals with a thrilling 67-65 win over No. 8 Bellevue (Neb.). The appearance in the third round is the third in the last four years for the Panthers, tops among all NAIA teams at the Division II Championship.
“It feels great to see our guys stayed composed after having a big lead and then seeing a very talented Bellevue team cut it to just one,” said head coach Burt Paddock. “We work on those situations daily in practice and it paid off today and now we move on to play another great team on Saturday.”
Dominez Burnett posted a game high 24 points while he was followed in double figures by JaVontae Ford (15) and DeArmond Davis (12) to help the Panthers avenge an earlier season setback to the Bruins. Taylor Young finished with 17 off the bench for the Bruins, who see their season come to a close with an overall record of 29-6.
After trailing 4-2 early, Davenport used an 11-2 run finished off by a 3-point play from Ford to take a 13-6 lead with 15:32 to play in the first half. The lead grew to as many as 10 on three different occasions but the Bruins scored 10 of the last 12 points of the half to cut the margin to just two at 31-29.
Bellevue, who averaged 89.4 points per game entering the contest, came out and stayed within close distance of the Panthers, but what turned into somewhat of a free-throw shooting contest, Davenport pulled away halfway through to up their lead back into double-figures at 52-42.
The Bruins, behind the play of Alex Worthen-Harris and Given Kalipinde as well as Young, slowly started to chip away and had the margin down to just one (66-65) with 24 seconds to play.
After a steal and free-throw by the Panthers to make it 67-65 with 1.7 seconds to play, a late heave from just inside half-court was off the mark and Davenport finished with the victory.
“Our bench and young guys came up huge today, said senior JaVontae Ford. “When Jon Prins made that FT, that brought us together and then to see Kevin Rich do the same as a freshman, it was special.”
The Bruins were held 25 points below their season average while struggling from behind the arc, as they finished just 2-18 (11.1%). On the flip side, Davenport did not make a single shot from long-range but connected on 26-37 (70.2%) inside the arc.
Davenport improves to 29-6 on the year and will play the winner of No. 1 Cardinal Stritch (Wis.) and No. 18 Southeastern (Fla.) on Saturday, March 15 at 1pm.