No. 8 St. Thomas (MN) beat previously-unbeaten No. 2 Benedictine (Ill.) 82-76 to win the 2016 NCAA Division III men’s basketball championship.
Taylor Montero had a season-high 27 points with 11 rebounds, Ryan Saarela scored 26 points while grabbing 10 boards, and Grant Shaeffer chipped in 14 points for St. Thomas (30-3) in Saturday’s win.
For Benedictine (31-1), Lucas Johnson had 21 points with 11 rebounds, John Dodson scored 13, and Tim Reamer added 11 points in the season-ending loss.
Up 37-32 at the half, St. Thomas extended their lead to as high as 12 points in the second half.
Benedictine got to within 2 points at 73-71 with 1:33 remaining on a Lucas Johnson slam.
But the Tommies made 7-of-10 foul shots in the final 42 seconds to seal the game.
“This team’s really good at staying composed, and it starts with [coach John Tauer] and it starts with the captains,” UST guard Schaeffer told CBSlocal.com. “We all looked around and said, ‘Hey, let’s go. It’s game time. It’s winning time.'”
In the contest, St. Thomas had only seven turnovers, out rebounded Benedictine 36-32, and shot 50 percent from the field to offset Benedictine’s 24-3 advantage from behind the arc.
“At the end of the day, we left it out there,” said Benedictine’s game leading scorer Lucas Johnson. “We played the best we could tonight, and that’s really it. There’s really nothing for us to be too upset about. We played well and they just played a little better.”
St. Thomas had a dominating 6-0 run through the tournament, holding a double-figure lead in every game, while dispatching the Nos. 18, 11, 1, 4 and 2 ranked teams in their title run.
It is the Tommies second NCAA Div. 3 national championship in six years, but the first under fifth-year head coach John Tauer.