Eagles nearly advance

Irvine Scene

Concordia finishes an impressive season, losing to Georgetown (Ky.), 69-67, in NAIA tournament.

March 19, 2011|By Joe Haakenson, Daily Pilot
(Courtesy of Concordia…)

The madness of March is not exclusive to the so-called big boys of college basketball. While the NCAA Division I men's basketball tournament's Final Four is still a couple weeks away, the NAIA's version is right here, right now.

Irvine's Concordia University has put together another remarkable season, going 19-1 to win the Golden State Athletic Conference regular season, winning the conference tournament, then went into the NAIA Division I men's 32-team tournament in Kansas City, Mo. seeded No. 2, sporting an impressive 30-3 overall record.

Saturday, they lost to Georgetown (Ky.), 69-67, falling a game short of reaching the Final Four and ending their season. Georgetown guard Eddie Gray converted a layup to win the game with 1.6 seconds left.

Despite falling short of their national championship goals, the Eagles enjoyed another incredible season. They ended their season with the fifth 30-win season in program history, at 32-4.

In reaching the NAIA's Elite Eight, Concordia won its first two games of the tournament earlier this week.


In Thursday's first-round game against Southern Poly State (Ga.), the Eagles jumped out to an early 18-6 lead and were never seriously threatened the rest of the way. Though Southern Poly cut Concordia's lead to 10 points at the half, the Eagles ran away with the game in the second half to win, 96-64.

Justin Johnson, the GSAC Player of the Year, led the way with a game-high 25 points, while Taylor King added 18 points and eight rebounds.

Then on Friday against Evangel (Mo.) University, Concordia put the game away by halftime, taking a 64-35 lead at the break. It allowed coach Ken Ammann to clear his bench, as all 11 players who played in the game scored in the 102-62 victory.

Johnson led the way with 24 points in only 19 minutes, and King had 16 points and six rebounds as the Eagles moved on.

"More than a little," Ammann said when asked if he was a little surprised by how easily his team won those first two tournament games. "Especially the first one. We were nervous going into that game."

The Eagles shot 55% or better in both games, but Ammann said it was his team's defense that made the difference.

"Our defensive intensity is the best I've ever seen," he said. "It was surprising. We're playing at a very high level right now."

Johnson, a 6-foot-2 guard from Tustin, became even more vital to Concordia's success when 6-foot-8 center Ben Smith, a four-year starter, broke a bone in his leg during practice before the tournament began.

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