Oklahoma Baptist wins NAIA title

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Fans were cheering and confetti was dropping from the roof as if Oklahoma Baptist had just beaten Azusa Pacific 84-83 in a hard-fought championship game of the NAIA.

But had they? Officials huddled over a television monitor, making sure the Marshall Johnson's 15-footer, which went through the net and would have been the game-winner for Azusa Pacific, had come after the buzzer.

After a few minutes, an official stepped onto the floor and waved off Johnson's bucket.

Finally, the Bisons of Oklahoma Baptist, from Shawnee, Okla., could celebrate winning the championship of small-college basketball.

"We've been in this game before and hadn't won it. This is an unbelievable feeling," coach Doug Tolin said. "You don't realize until your guys do it how unbelievable it all seems."

Azusa Pacific, trying to be the first 13 seed to win this tournament since Grambling in 1961, took an 83-78 lead with 1:50 left on two free throws by Mike Danielian.

Oklahoma Baptist's Nate Brumfield cut it to 83-80 with a basket and Hawkins made a free throw to shave another point off the lead.

Then Brumfield, the NAIA player of the year, grabbed an offensive rebound, kicked it out to Hawkins, and he drilled an uncontested 3-pointer, putting the Bison on top 84-83 with 31 seconds left.

"Definitely the biggest shot of my life," said Hawkins, who led the Bison with 21 points. "I had an opportunity to be a senior, and it was time for me to step up with a wide-open jump shot."

Hawkins said he wasn't worried as both teams stood tensely and awaited the officials final ruling on the desperation heave by Marshall Johnson.

"I felt like he didn't have a chance," Hawkins said. "I felt like the game was over."

With Oklahoma Baptist holding a one-point lead, players from both sides dived for a loose ball and a tie-up was called, with the possession arrow to Azusa Pacific.

The Cougars inbounded with 19.3 seconds to go, but Reggie Owens' pass went off Dominique Johnson's fingertips out of bounds.

Azusa Pacific coach Justin Leslie emerged from his locker room red-eyed.

"I couldn't be more proud of these guys," he said. "They had lots of opportunities to lay down and quit and they just wouldn't do it. It was a great basketball team against a great team and we gave it all we had."

Let there be no controversy regarding that final shot, Leslie said.

"I just wanted them to take an honest look at it. And they did," he said. "I saw the replay as clearly as anybody. The ball was in his hands when the light went off."

Oklahoma Baptist inbounded with 16 ticks left. Emmanuel Wilson was fouled and went to the line but missed both, setting up the final, futile shot for the Cougars.

Johnson had 24 points for Azusa Pacific and Owens had 17.

Kevin Swinton scored 19 for Oklahoma Baptist and Brumfield had 15.