Everybody in Pyle Complex knew where the basketball was going.
Fourth-ranked Oklahoma Wesleyan, down by one point to Central Christian College’s men with less than a minute to play here Saturday, went to their money man, All-American Sadiel Rojas.
And, like always, he delivered.
Rojas’ old-fashioned three-point play gave the Eagles a 76-74 lead and they eventually held off the Tigers 77-74 to earn a share of the MCAC title with Bellevue University.
Bellevue, however, won the tiebreaker with Oklahoma Wesleyan and will serve as host of the MCAC’s annual Final Four. The Bruins will host Central Christian at 7 p.m. Friday. The Tigers are the No. 4 seed after finishing MCAC?play at 8-6, 21-8 overall.
Oklahoma Wesleyan and College of the Ozarks play in the other semi at 5 p.m. Friday. The title game is scheduled for 5 p.m. Saturday.
It was a bitterly disappointing loss for the Tigers, but CCC coach Tony Romero had few complaints, as his team gave it everything it had. Rojas, though, just made the big play to send a dagger through the heart of the Tigers.
“He’s a great player, an unbelieveable player,” Romero said. “He’s the best scorer and best rebounder in the nation.”
CCC had taken a 74-73 lead on a follow shot by Christopher Jones with 57 seconds left. The Eagles were then patient on the other end, working it to the smooth 6-4 Rojas. He made an acrobatic swoop to the basket and drew the foul, adding the free throw for a two-point lead.
CCC, though, had plenty of time. But the Eagles ramped up their defense and Don Gavin was forced to settle for a well-guarded shot. He missed and the Eagles’ Jeff Jewitt made a free throw at the other end for the final margin.
“I’ve said all year, I think our guys can play with anybody,” said Romero, whose team owns a win over Bellevue among its many accomplishments. “When they play together and as hard as that, they’re as good as anyone.”
The Tigers were down as many as 11 in the first half, but battled back within 34-31 by the break, thanks to four 3-pointers by Christian Goolsby. They finally tied the game at 43-all on a trey by Konner Bergstrom and from there, it was game on. CCC did have as much as a four-point lead, but it was nip-and-tuck the entire second half.
Jones had a monster game for the Tigers with 19 points and 13 rebounds, while Goolsby had 18 on six 3-pointers. Gavin, who passed the 1,000 career scoring mark on Friday, scored 16 and Kaelon Gary added 10.
Rojas, who led the Eagles to the 2009 NAIA championship, scored 22 points, snatched 14 rebounds and dished off for six assists. Levi Mooney, a lithe 6-8 forward, drained four 3-pointers and scored 14, while Caleb Gentry came off the bench for 13, making all four of his 3-pointers.
“We didn’t do a very good job in either half on getting out on their shooters,” Romero said. “I thought that was the difference in the game. They made 11 3-pointers and that was too many.”
CCC (74) -- Gavin 5 5-7 16; Jones 8 3-4 19; Ford 1 0-0 3; Gary 5 0-1 10; Goolsby 6 0-1 18; Conley 1 0-0 3; Lockwood 0 0-1 0; Bergstrom 2 0-0 5. Totals -- 28 8-14 77. 3-pointers -- Goolsby 6, Gavin 1, Ford 1, Conley 1, Bergstrom 1.
Oklahoma Wesleyan (77) -- Rojas 8 6-7 22; Shaw 2 0-0 5; Mooney 5 0-0 14; Jewitt 1 1-2 4; Gentles 3 0-0 7; Rambo 3 0-2 6; Harlan 1 3-4 5; Gentry 4 1-2 13; Jahn 0 1-2 1. Totals -- 27 12-19 77. 3-pointers -- Mooney 4, Gentry 4, Shaw 1, Gentles 1, Jewitt 1.