TLU's Jackson Willoughby (35) drives around Centenary's Travion Kirkendoll (5) in the Bulldogs SCAC semifinal loss to the Gents on Saturday in Colorado Springs. Photo by Sami Springfield.
(Colorad Springs) - Texas Lutheran's quest for a fourth consecutive Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference Men's Basketball Championship ended Saturday in the SCAC semifinal with a 76-70 loss to No. 2 seed Centenary College (La.).
TLU won SCAC Championships in 2015, 2016 and 2017 and eliminated Centenary along the way in each of those tournament runs.
After TLU dispatched No. 3 seed University of Dallas 91-76 on Friday, the Bulldogs needed two more wins to win a fourth title and make a fourth consecutive run into the NCAA Division III Men's Basketball Championship.
The loss to Centenary ends TLU's 2017-18 season. The Bulldogs finish with a 12-15 overall record in Head Coach Mike Wacker's second season with the squad.
Centenary advances to the SCAC Championship final to face top-seeded Schreiner. Centenary improved to 15-10 overall.
TLU, the sixth seed of the SCAC tournament, trailed Centenary by 14 points with 7:21 to play before launching another rally against the Gents. TLU erased a late double-digit lead against Centenary in a regular-season win in Seguin and nearly pulled off another dramatic comeback - this time in the conference tournament.
At Colorado College's Reid Arena, TLU pulled within two points of Centenary on a couple of occasions in the final 90 seconds. First, Jackson Willoughby's layup cut the Gents' lead to 69-67, and then Jacob Kouremetis made all three free throws (after being fouled on a three-point attempt) with 30 seconds remaining. Kouremetis' free throws made the Centenary lead two once more, at 72-70 with 30 seconds to play.
The Bulldogs fouled on the next two Centenary possessions and launched a three on the final TLU possession. Centenary made all four of its final free throws, and the Bulldogs' last three-point attempt did not drop in.
TLU shot 31 three-point attempts against Centenary and made 11. The Bulldogs shot 39 percent from the field overall and 35.5 percent from the three-point line. The Bulldogs made seven second-half three-pointers.
Centenary shot 47.4 percent for the game and took a 37-26 lead at the half with a 53.6 percent shooting performance over the first 20 minutes of action.
Travion Kirkendoll, Centenary's All-Conference guard, paced the Gents with 28 points. Cedric Harris contributed 12 points and 12 rebounds.
TLU received 18 points from Kouremetis and 15 points off the bench from Alex Cage. Cage and Willoughby each grabbed six rebounds.
In Friday's quarterfinal win over Dallas, TLU hit six three-pointers in a late second-half run that broke open a tie game and propelled the Bulldogs to a conference semifinal matchup Saturday with Centenary College (La.).
With the game tied at 55 with 8:09 to play, TLU's Matt Perry started the three-point barrage and hit a total of two in the shooting surge. Sebastian Andrade hit two threes in the spurt, and Alex Cage and Jacob Kouremetis also connected from long range.
By the time of Kouremetis's three, with 1:40 to play, the Bulldogs were on a 23-11 run that stretched the lead to 78-66.
Kouremetis led TLU with 18 points. He added four rebounds and four assists. Kouremetis made four of his 10 three-point attempts. In his last two games, he has made 13 three-pointers.
The Bulldogs had five players in double figures against Dallas. Cage came off the bench to score 17. He hit three three-pointers and dished out three assists.
Andrade also made three from beyond the arc and finished with 16 points. Perry and Jackson Willoughby chipped in 13 and 10, respectively. Perry made three three-pointers.
The Bulldogs hit 14 total three-pointers and shot 14-for-30 (46.7 percent) from the arc.
TLU also thrived at the free throw line, making 23 out of 25 at the line.
Senior forward Matthew Gillette, after missing last week's overtime road win at Southwestern due to illness, returned to the court and gave the team nine points and seven rebounds. Nathan Josephs, TLU's leading scorer, was held to two points, but he dished out six assists and had five rebounds.
Spencer Levi paced Dallas with 19 points and eight rebounds. The freshman forward made seven of his 12 field goal attempts. Darrius Colvin added 18 points and eight rebounds.