PARKVILLE, Mo. — Three Pirates were in double-digits and 17th-ranked Park University had a chance, down one on its final possession, but Zach Rutland's jumper from the right elbow hit the back iron and fell in to Tyrone Alston's hands for Harris-Stowe State University, securing a stunning upset for the Hornets, 70-69 in the American Midwest Conference Tournament Semifinals, at Park's Breckon Sports Center.
"They were very, very good, and they were the aggressor all afternoon," said Park coach Jason Kline, whose team will wait until Wednesday's NAIA Division I Men's Basketball selection show to see if the 2016-17 season will continue. "Both of those teams are in a really big game, now – Harris and William Woods. This is a conference that deserves more respect than it gets and the winner of that game has a chance to be very successful downtown."
Park (21-7) was led by Xavielle Brown's 24 points and eight rebounds, giving Brown an even 2,050 points for his career, and the Pirates added 15 for Ikem Eriobuna, who had three blocks, and 10 from BJ Watson, while Rutland ended the game with seven assists.
Park used a big run to end the first half after Harris-Stowe (18-12) went in front by 10 with 6:14 in the half, and part of the run included a 12-2 spurt to tie the game at 29 on Noel Surles' free throw with 3:21 before the break. Harris-Stowe led 35-31 at intermission, scoring the last four points in the half after Brown tied the game with 1:02 in the first from the paint.
Malik Wineglass, who led HSSU with 16 points, drew last blood in the first, beating the buzzer to go up four, and he struck again only 32 seconds in to the second, from the paint and following his own miss to make it 37-31.
Over the next seven minutes, Harris-Stowe looked to be running away with the game, and Dwane Miner had the Hornets in front by 10 with 12:03 to go, converting Josh Rutland's foul in to a three-point play to make it 53-43, but that was the Hornets' last double-digit lead of the game as Park closed to a one-possession contest with 10:29 to go on a bucket by Brown to make it 55-52.
Park's run continued and the Pirates led by three with 8:13 to play on a free throw by Brown, but a 8-2 run for the Hornets covered the next four minutes, and HSSU was back in front by three, 63-60, with 4:01 to play. The Pirates held one more lead, at the 1:25 mark in the game when Watson found Surles to make it 70-69, but Cameron Biedscheid, hit two free throws with 26 seconds left, ultimately sealing the game before Rutland's miss.
The Hornets will meet William Woods University Tuesday night in Fulton, Missouri, at 7 p.m., and Park will wait until Wednesday's NAIA Division I Men's Basketball selection show at www.naianetwork.com to see if the Pirates will make the field of 32 at Municipal Auditorium March 15-21 in the Buffalo Funds-NAIA Division I Men's Basketball National Championship.