Winona Lake, IN: The #7 seeded Alice Lloyd College Eagles opened their quest for an NCCAA National Championship on Wednesday, March 17th against the #2 seeded Columbia International Rams (SC). The Pippa Passes club came back from a five-point second-half deficit and pulled out an impressive 79-72 victory.
In the first twenty minutes, the Eagles saw junior center Colyn Sturgill and sophomore forward Damon Tobler open the game by scoring all of their team’s points in a 9-2 spurt.
The second-seeded Rams cut the deficit to two, but ALC was able to hold their advantage for the entire stanza as they continued to respond with their powerful inside game. The Caney Creek club held on to a 37-31 advantage by intermission.
In the second half, ALC would lead 41-32 after a short jumper and a bomb from senior guard Chandler Stewart, only to watch the Rams explode over the next six minutes with a 16-2 burst. Suddenly, with 13:00 remaining, CU led 48-43.
Fortunately, the Eagles would regroup, and claw their way back into contention. After seeing the score knotted up at 58 apiece with 6:50 remaining, Sturgill scored on a strong post move to put the Pippa Passes squad ahead to stay, and then scored on a jumper one minute later to gain his team some breathing room. Once the clock went below the five-minute mark, the Eagles were exceptional in crunch time, as senior guard Noah Young controlled the tempo and got the ball exactly where it needed to be. Alice Lloyd made either a field goal or free throws on 10 out of their next 11 possessions to pull ahead by 13 points and seal the deal on a huge victory.
For the victorious Eagles (18-6), five players reached double figures. They were led on the night by Tobler, who drained half of his 14 shots to finish with 19 points. He added 6 rebounds. He was followed by Sturgill who sank 7-9 shots to finish with 14 points. He also had 6 rebounds and 2 blocks. Young tossed in 13 points and dished out a game-high 6 assists and grabbed 5 boards. Junior strongman Will Philpot contributed a huge double-double, as he scored 10 points and snagged 11 rebounds. Stewart, who missed the bulk of the first half in foul trouble, came through with 10 points and 4 boards, nearly all in the final twenty minutes. Junior guard Bryce Slone sank several back-breaking free throws while adding 5 boards.
ALC shot 45.5% (30-66) from the field and 26.7% (4-15) from long range and sank 83.3% (15-18) from the foul line. They controlled the glass, hauling down 47 rebounds, and added 12 assists, and 3 steals.
For the Rams (15-8), guard Corey Benton led the way with 19 points. His club finished shooting 35.1% (26-74) from the floor, 28.6% (8-28) from behind the arc, and 66.7% (12-18) from the foul line. They also snagged 41 rebounds and added 11 assists, and 5 steals.
The Eagles return to action on Friday, March 18th, when they play the #3 seed of the tournament, Ottawa University (AZ) in semi-final play. Tipoff is set for 7:00 pm.