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Lions capture first national championship

Men's Basketball

Vanguard culminates unprecedented season by topping Emmanuel of Georgia in NAIA final. Wynne named MVP.

March 25, 2014
  • The Vanguard University men's basketball team won its first NAIA national championship.
The Vanguard University men's basketball team… (Ryan Coody )

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Vanguard University Lions may not be who we thought they were, but if one wants to crown Coach Rhett Soliday's men's basketball players, one can now officially crown them.

The Lions defeated Emmanuel College of Georgia, 70-65, in the championship game of the NAIA Division I Tournament on Tuesday at Municipal Auditorium.

Vanguard's ninth straight win gave the program its first national championship and matched the 2008 women's basketball title as only the second national crown in the history of the Costa Mesa-based school.

The Lions (32-6) led for all but 85 seconds to forge their fifth win in seven days in Kansas City, where the program had been just 1-2 in two previous appearances (1990 and 2006). Its only tournament win prior to this season was in the first round in 1990.

But after winning the program's third Golden State Athletic Conference title, its first since 1990, then collecting its first GSAC Tournament crown, Soliday's squad obviously wasn't done.

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The No. 6-seeded Lions' tournament run included wins over Life University of Georgia (103-94 on Wednesday), Benedictine of Kansas (81-70 on Friday), defending-champion Georgetown of Kentucky (93-85 in Saturday's quarterfinals) and St. Gregory's of Oklahoma (108-88 in Monday's semifinal).

Senior guard Preston Wynne, who had 42 points in the semifinal win, led Vanguard with 20 points in the final to earn tournament MVP honors. Wynne, the GSAC Player of the Year, averaged 26.6 points per game in the tournament and his 133 points were unmatched. He scored at least 20 points for the seventh straight game.

Junior guard Chris Gorman, who scored 13 of his 18 points in the first half Tuesday, was named to the all-tournament team.

Junior Keith Mason, who averaged nearly a double-double in the tournament (10.6 points and nine rebounds per contest), had 10 points and 13 rebounds for the winners.

Freshman reserve Zach Allmon chipped in 11 rebounds and six points, while senior Noah Larkins also came off the bench to produce eight points.

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