By Kevin Posival
Killeen Daily Herald
BELTON - Marlon Miller knew the Cru needed a big shot and believed he could make it.
Miller's shot, a 15-foot pull-up jumper, missed short and Ryan Beall hit a game-winning 3-pointer with 16 seconds left for Trinity, giving the Tigers a 68-66 upset win over the 10th-ranked Cru in an NCAA Division III National Championships first-round tournament game Friday at the Mayborn Campus Center.
James Allen missed a layup with six seconds for the Cru and Trinity (21-8) advanced to tonight's second-round game against Whitworth University at 7 p.m.
"I shot the ball terrible tonight, but I just feel like sometimes if I think I can make it, I'm going to shoot it. If I second-guess myself, then of course I'm going to miss it," Miller said. "I felt like we needed a big shot and I thought I could hit it and I just didn't come through."
The Cru (25-3), who ended their season with back-to-back losses, twice rallied from 11-point deficits, but took a 64-66 lead on a Brian Todd free throw with 2:09 left. Trinity's Robert Kitzinger hit a free throw for the Tigers, cutting the Cru's lead to one with 1:55 to go.
Damian Davis and Sterling Phillips each came up with big offensive rebounds on UMHB's next possession and Cru head coach Ken DeWeese called for a time out with 49 seconds left to discuss what to do next.
"I told them, I wanted to go inside, however, if you're on the perimeter and you feel good about it, shoot it," DeWeese said. "He (Miller) felt good about it."
Cory Meals led the Cru with 11 points, Greg Wiernas added 10. Kitrick Bell, who was playing for the first time in two weeks after a suffering an ankle injury, scored all seven of his points in a 15-2 run midway through the second half that rallied the Cru from a 57-46 deficit to a 61-59 lead on his putback with 6:13 left. The Cru hit just 3-of-7 from the free-throw line after that.
"After a while, when we started getting going, I did feel 100 percent," Bell said. "It's just the intensity of the crowd and once you get your adrenaline going, you basically feel painless."
Trinity finished the first half on a 22-5 run and led 46-35 at halftime, but Miller hit back-to-back 3's as the Cru opened the second half on a 10-3 run that trimmed the Tigers' lead to 51-45. Trinity stretched its lead back to 11 with a 6-1 run before Bell's layup with 10:52 left ignited the Cru's rally.
"If you want to win, you've just got to give it all you've got, so that's what we tried to do," Miller said. "In the end, it just didn't end how we wanted it to and they ended up hitting a big shot and ending up winning the game that way."
Trinity jumped out to a 9-2 lead, but Meals scored eight straight points, including back-to-back 3s, the cut the Tigers' deficit to 11-10. James Allen then hit a 3 with 12:13 to play in the first half to spark a 15-4 run that gave the Cru a 30-24 lead with 7:51 left in the first half.
The Cru missed nine of their final 11 shots - eight of which were from behind the 3-point line - aiding the Tigers to their 11-point lead at the intermission.
The Cru shot less than 41 percent from the floor and less than 31 percent from the 3-point line. They also made just 14-of-24 from the free-throw line.
"It's very disappointing. It's the second weekend in a row, we were at home and now there's going to be a game tomorrow and we won't be in it," Miller said. "We started out a really good season with really good defense, really good offense, everyone clicking in harmony and then, for the last two weeks, it seems like we've been a little disoriented. It's very disappointing to end this way."
Whitworth 90, McMurry 79 - Felix Friedt scored 35 points and Whitworth held McMurry under 10 percent shooting from behind the 3-point line to advance to the second round of the NCAA Division III National Championships tournament.
Friedt scored 16 in the first half, leading the Pirates (25-3) to a slim 41-37 halftime lead. McMurry (20-9) didn't go away, but the War Hawks, led by Alfred Perez' 20 points and 10 rebounds, couldn't overcome their poor shooting, either. They missed all six 3-point tries in the first half and were 2-of-15 from behind the line in the second. They only shot 37.8 percent from the floor and were outrebounded 41-38 by Whitworth.
The Pirates shot just under 54 percent from the floor in the game and were 6-of-19 from behind the arc.