OAKLAND CITY, Ind. — The Yellowstone Christian College Centurions gave Oakland City University all they could handle and more, but the Mighty Oaks were able to hold off a relentless Centurion crew 81-73 in the semifinal game of the Christian College National Invitational Tournament on Friday night in Oakland City, Ind.
The Centurions came into the game the heavy underdog, but threw the first punch. Abraham Nyok and Taylan Barrett hit back-to-back threes to kick off the game. Meanwhile, OCU started the game 0-for-7, and didn’t hit their first bucket from the field until the 14:27 mark to cut the YCC lead to 10-5.
After a Mechiah Zilkoski trey, his first of three on the night, OCU began their comeback. Addison Wagler tied the game at 15 with just under 10 minutes to play in the first half, and the teams traded leads throughout the rest of the first half. Oakland City headed into the halftime break up 35-30.
YCC mounted a comeback of their own in the second half. Barrett cut the OCU lead to one with a layup with just over 17 minutes left in regulation. An Andrew Scott three pushed the Oaks’ lead back to four, but the Centurions always had an answer.
After finding themselves down by as much as seven halfway through the second frame, Aaron Munday-Rashid took over. The lanky 6-foot-5 freshman knocked in a jumper in the paint to tie the game at 55 with under ten minutes to play, then tied the game again at 57, 30 seconds later.
Stefan Tellis gave the C’s a 60-59 lead with 6:40 left on the clock with a trey, but Scott’s layup gave the lead back to OCU. Zilkoski responded with his third and final shot from downtown of the game, a straight-on money shot to put the Centurions up by two with under six minutes in regulation. Unfortunately for YCC, this would be the last time they would find themselves in front.
OCU retook the lead for the final time courtesy of a Scott layup with less than five minutes left in the game. The Mighty Oaks hit 13-of-14 free throws in the second half to seal the game.
The tale of the game: free throw shooting. It wasn’t the poor shooting from the charity stripe that surprised the Centurions. It was the lack of free throw attempts. The Centurions attempted four free throws all game. Oakland City saw 37 shots at the line, connecting on 32 of them.
Statistically, the Centurions should have won on Friday night. They made more shots than the Mighty Oaks (31-of-80 against 24-of-58) and shot better from three-point-range (9-of-32 against 1-of-13). The Centurions also dominated the glass, pulling down 51 rebounds compared to just 36 for the Oaks.
“I, as a head coach, hate to harp on the officiating, but when the proof is in the pudding, the proof is in the pudding. When the total fouls are 26 to 7, and the free throw attempts are 37 to four, our guys worked way too hard to come out of here with a loss,” said a disgruntled Head Coach Leonard Epps. Epps added he will be filing a complaint with the governing body of the tournament because of the lopsided officiating.
Munday-Rashid took over in the second half, scoring all of his game-high 24 points in the final 20 minutes. Reserve Mechiah Zilkoski pumped in a career-best 15 points and pulled down seven rebounds. Nyok just missed a double-double with ten points and nine boards. Nyok also added a game-high five assists.
Logan Worthington and Scott both posted double-doubles, with Worthington chalking up 22 points and ten boards. Scott scored 17 points and pulled down 11 rebounds. The duo were joined in double-figures by Wagler and Matt Lucas with 18 points each.
The Centurions will face the Rhema College Eagles on Saturday night for third place, with tip scheduled for 6:00 p.m. CST.