OSKALOOSA — The William Penn Statesmen rattled off 16 unanswered points to start Tuesday’s conference title bout against the Benedictine College Ravens. They’d end up with a 92-76 victory, solidifying a conference tournament title.
With the win, the Statesmen take a 13-game winning streak, and 24-1 record, into the NAIA national championships, which will get underway March 12 and 13.
Tuesday’s tournament title is the fourth won by the Statesmen in the Heart of America Athletic Conference, and second straight. This season, William Penn also won their second straight regular-season conference crown, and fifth overall.
Karmari Newman finished the night with a team-high 28 points for the Statesmen, finishing 10-of-19 from the field and 4-of-6 from the charity stripe. That follows his 35-point effort in Saturday's conference semifinal.
On Tuesday, Kevion Blaylock added another 20 points while Eddie Daley and Nathan Gehring each added 10. Daley grabbed 11 off the boards for a double-double.
Benedictine finally got going with a bucket five minutes in, but the Statesmen kept things rolling with Nathan Gehring making a nice hook shot from the point on a feed from Chanze Cruesoe. Cruesoe then deftly drove and scored to make it 20-4 in favor of WPU as the home crowd roared its delight. However, BC then turned the tables and took the fans out of the equation.
Going on a 20-7 streak that cut the lead to three, the Ravens seemed poised to take their first lead. Newman drained another three with 6:15 to go in the half and made a jumper on the next possession to put WPU ahead 32-26.
Back came the Ravens, though, as they slashed the lead to one before tying the game at 33-33 with just under four minutes to go in the frame. Out in transition, Cruesoe fed an open Brandon Faison, who potted a jumper to give the Statesmen the lead once more. After a jumper fell for BC, Gehring then banked home another post-up shot to make it a three-point game.
On the next possession, Pender battled for an offensive rebound and laid it up and in to make it a five-point gap. Back-to-back makes for Daley kept the momentum on the side of the Statesmen, as the lead grew back to eight.
With 34 seconds remaining in the first half and owning an inbound situation under the attacking basket, WPU called a timeout. The play went to Blaylock, who created a little space with a jab step and sank a 10-footer to put the navy and gold up 47-37. Despite some strong defense from the navy and gold, the Ravens got a scoop layup at the buzzer to end the first half with the Statesmen leading 47-39.
The story was almost repeated in the second half. While Benedictine opened the scoring, Blaylock produced four unanswered to put the lead back to double digits at 51-41. The Statesmen used the first eight minutes of the half to outscore the Ravens 19-8 with Gehring capping the hot start with two free throws to push the advantage to 66-47.
Yet again the middle phase favored the visitors as BC went on a 13-3 run that closed the gap to nine at 67-58. William Penn did not let the home crowd down, though, as it kicked the engine back into high gear. Blaylock rattled off seven-straight points, showing off his shooting ability from all ranges. That started what would become a 16-3 streak for the Statesmen that extended the lead to 83-63 with 5:02 to go in the game. The Ravens had enough in the tank to bring the lead back under 20, but they could not threaten down the stretch.
Derrick Holman had the honor of making the last shot as he snuck down the lane to score with 31 seconds to go. Up 92-76, the Statesmen dribbled out the clock and prepared to cut the nets down for the second time this season. The team also repeats their accomplishment from last year, winning both the regular season and tournament trophies.
WPU shot 54% from the field, going 37-for-68. The victors made nine of their 23 three-point shots (39.1%) and were 9-for-16 from the line (56.3%). The team controlled the boards to the tune of a +28 rebound margin, gaining 17 offensive rebounds and 33 defensive ones. The Ravens snagged only 22 boards for the game.
Newman posted 28 points to lead all players, going 4-for-8 from downtown and 10-for-19 overall. Blaylock finished with 20 points on 9-for-14 shooting, while Daley posted a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds. Fellow post player Gehring finished with 10 points and five boards.
Q Cager made just one free throw on the night, but contributed in many other areas with eight rebounds and seven assists. Cruesoe had four assists and seven points, while Pender had nine points and seven rebounds.
"This year has not been easy with all we have had to overcome with COVID," said head coach John Henry. "This team and last year's team are so special. Tonight was also special with the anniversary of the passing of Marquis Todd. I know he's happy with tonight's win.”
The NAIA National Tournament Selection Show will be aired on Thursday, March 4, at 7 p.m. on the NAIA's Facebook page.
Oskaloosa Herald editor Kyle Ocker and the William Penn Sports Information Department contributed to this report.
No. 2 William Penn 92, No. 22 Benedictine 76
No. 22 Benedictine (20-6)
Eric Krus 5-12 2-2 15, Saxton Thuston 1-3 0-0 2, Jaiden Bristol 2-7 5-7 10, Tyson Cathy 4-5 2-2 10, Joel Adese 1-2 0-0 2, Jake Thompson 0-0 0-0 0, Jayden Temme 5-15 6-6 16, Chris Jackson 0-1 0-0 0, Braden Belt 0-0 0-0 0, Nysir Scott 1-4 0-0 2, Matt Austin 7-13 0-1 17, Ahmad Louis 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 27-63 15-18 76.
No. 2 William Penn (24-1)
Eddie Daley 4-9 2-5 10, Q Cager 0-3 1-2 1, Ahmad Pender 4-5 0-1 9, Josh Watkins 1-4 0-0 3, Quinshaun Freeman 0-0 0-0 0, Nathan Gehring 4-6 2-2 10, Chanze Cruesoe 3-3 0-0 7, Kevion Blaylock 9-14 0-0 20, Brandon Faison 1-3 0-0 2, Karmari Newman 10-19 4-6 28, Jordan Golden 0-0 0-0 0, Derrick Holman 1-1 0-0 2, Thomas Stanley 0-0 0-0 0, Ty Majlik-Autry 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 37-68 9-16 92.
Benedictine — 39 ... 37 — 76
William Penn — 47 ... 45 — 92
FG%: Benedictine .429, William Penn .544. 3-pt FG:Benedictine 7-19 (Krus 3-6, Thuston 0-1, Bristol 1-2, Temme 0-2, Scott 0-2, Austin 3-6), William Penn 9-23 (Daley 0-2, Cager 0-1, Pender 1-1, Watkins 1-3, Cruesoe 1-1, Blaylock 2-5, Faison 0-1, Newman 4-8, Majlik-Autry 0-1). Rebounds: Benedictine 22 (TEAM 4, Krus 4), William Penn 50 (Daley 11). Fouls Benedictine 13, William Penn 19. Fouled out: none. Technical: Cager. Assists: Benedictine 12 (Austin 4), William Penn 20 (Cager 7). Steals: Benedictine 3 (Bristol 1, Cathy 1, Scott 1), William Penn 3 (Cager 1, Pender 1, Majlik-Autry 1). Blocked shots: Benedictine 0, William Penn 6 (Daley 3). Turnovers: Benedictine 7, William Penn 14.