’Runners run for 1st title since ’02

Metro State beats West Liberty, will play Drury for DII crown

LOUISVILLE, Ky.

Jonathan Morse, Brandon Jefferson and Nicholas Kay each scored 17 points, helping Metro State overcome a second-half rally by top-ranked West Liberty for an 83-76 victory Saturday in the NCAA Division II Tournament semifinals.

The third-ranked Roadrunners had a 16-point lead in the first half, but they needed that trio to hold off the Hilltoppers in the second period.

West Liberty (34-2) rallied within 69-68 with 3 minutes, 2 seconds left on a three-point play by All-American Alex Falk, who scored 28 second-half points and 34 overall. Metro State went on a 9-1 run, with Jefferson scoring five points, Morse making two free throws and Kay adding a layup for a 78-69 lead with 1:05 left. The Roadrunners clinched the game with five late free throws, finishing 27 of 35 from the line.Demetrius Miller added 15 points and Mitch McCarron 14 for Metro State (32-2), which advanced to the April 7 final in Atlanta against Drury, a 107-97 winner over defending champion Western Washington in the second semifinal.

The Roadrunners will be seeking their first national championship since winning titles in 2000 and 2002.

“When they got it to one point, I don’t think anybody on our bench was panicked like we’re in trouble,” said Metro State coach Derrick Clark, whose team played without a timeout for the final 14˝ minutes. “It was just time to make a play, and that’s what we did. We just continued to answer any kind of a rally they made, and that’s a credit to our guys and their toughness.”

McCarron had a game-high 16 rebounds for the Roadrunners, who also got nine boards each from Kay and Morse.

The balanced box score typified the season for Metro State, which entered the game with its starters averaging in double figures. That mix of offensive and quickness helped the Roadrunners take control early and eventually withstand West Liberty’s numerous comeback attempts from beyond the arc.

The Hilltoppers attempted 47 3-pointers and made just 13, but two by Falk helped cut into the Roadrunners’ lead. He did most of his damage driving to the basket and seemed on the verge of completing a stunning rally for the West Virginia school before its 20-game win streak ended.

“I just saw some lanes open up and tried to drive the lane and create for other people,” Falk said. “But really, overall, I just didn’t shoot very good in the second half. It was tough going for us for a while, we made a run, but they just pulled away from us at the end.”

West Liberty finished 28 of 83 (33.7 percent) from the field.

Metro State, the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference regular-season and tournament champion, was solid throughout, hitting 25 of 56 (44.6 percent).Metro State’s only two losses this season came to fellow RMAC schools Fort Lewis College – Feb. 22 at Whalen Gymnasium in Durango when the Roadrunners were ranked No. 1 in the nation – and to CSU-Pueblo.

Drury 107, Western Washington 97

Alex Hall scored a season-high 35 points, making seven 3-pointers to help Drury topple defending champion Western Washington in the second NCAA Division II semifinal Saturday in Louisville, Ky.

The Panthers’ top scorer shook off foul trouble to finish 10 of 15 from the field, set the pace for Drury’s 34-of-59 shooting (57.6 percent) and extended a school-record winning streak to 22. He came up a point shy of his career high but was two better than Thursday’s quarterfinal effort against South Carolina-Aiken.

“We came in super focused,” said Hall, who hit his first four from long range. “I hit a few in a row, and my team found me for some open looks.”

Teddy Simniok added 12 points for Drury (30-4), which will play Metro State in the championship on April 7 in Atlanta. Metro State beat top-ranked West Liberty 83-76 in the other semifinal.“This is a dream come true, something we’ve been fighting for since Oct. 15,” Simniok said of reaching the championship game.“I thought we were prepared,” a disappointed Western Washington coach Tony Dominguez said. Rico Wilkins’ 27 points led the Vikings (31-3).

The Durango Herald contributed to this report.