Drury University rallied from a 17-point deficit to beat Metro State 74-73 and claim the men’s basketball, Division II National Championship, Sunday in Atlanta. “I thought they were the tougher basketball team in the first 20 minutes,” Drury coach Steve Hesser admitted. “We were having trouble getting matched up in transition. They were making three’s. We weren’t doing what we’ve done in the last month on offense. I thought we were taking some difficult shots. We were turning it over, as well.”
Hesser who has been battling pneumonia and a blood bacteria for almost a month hasn’t had a lot of energy and didn’t give a big “rah-rah” speech at halftime. His instructions to his team at the half were simple.
“If we go down, let’s go down being us and let’s go down together.”
Trailing 39-27, to start the second half, Drury began to rally. The Panthers outscored Metro State 47-34 and tied the game at 53-53 with 13:29 to play.
In the second half, after Drury tied the game, Metro still held onto the lead all the way (by as much as six at one point) until the final 23 seconds when senior and Springfield native Alex Hall finally hit two free throws to give the Panthers their final margin of victory.
Postgame video from Springfield News-Leader
The game was close for the first nine minutes as Metro held an 18-17 lead, but over the next six minutes, Metro outscored the Panthers 15-5 to open up a 33-22 lead with 5:03 to play. Four turnovers and a missed shot by Drury, extended that lead to 17 with 2:51 to play.
Watch the championship highlights
Hesser talked about his two senior guards who helped carry this team all season and they led the charge again. Hall finished with 21 points and Brandon Lockhart with 14.
The attendance of 7,763 was the most for a D-II championship game since 1971.