HUTCHINSON, Kan. – No. 13 seed Salt Lake (Utah) defeated No. 7 seed Hutchinson (Kan.) 74-64 in Saturday’s NJCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship Game at the Hutchinson Sports Arena, clinching its second national title in program history.
Conner Toolson led the Bruins in scoring, leading all players with 28 points on 11-of-20 shots from the field – including five three-pointers. The sophomore guard also recorded four rebounds and two steals in the Salt Lake victory.
Sophomore forward Tyler Rawson also had a big night, posting a double-double effort of 16 points and 11 rebounds. Sophomore Gibson Johnson scored nine while freshman point guard Tad Dufelmeier added six points, six assists and two steals, respectively.
The Bruins jumped out to an 18-point lead early in the second half thanks to shooting 16-for-34 from the field in the first 20 minutes as a team, including 5-for-15 from three-point range. For the game, Salt Lake shot 40 percent from the field (25-of-62) and edged Hutchinson in rebounding 41-38.
Sophomore guard Bashir Ahmed kept the Blue Dragons in the game, leading Hutchinson with 22 points. Freshman point guard Samajae Haynes-Jones chipped in 11 while freshman forward Shakur Juiston came off the bench to contribute nine points and 13 rebounds.
Toolson was named tournament MVP after leading all scorers during the week with 90 points in five games. He also proved to be the best long-range shooter in the tournament field, finding the bottom of the net on 19-of-38 3-point attempts.
Rawson and Dufelmeier garnered all-tournament honors for the Bruins. Rawson averaged 17.4 points and led Salt Lake with 8.2 rebounds for the tournament. Dufelmeier – who also took home the Sesher Sportsmanship Award – was ranked second at the tournament in assists with 28 and added 9.6 points per game for the Bruins.
As the No. 13 seed, Salt Lake’s run to its first national championship since 2009 was powered by sharp-shooting from the field. In their five tournament victories, the Bruins shot 49 percent (147-for-300) and 43 percent (54-for-125) from behind the 3-point line.
The Bruins defeated No. 23 Northeast Mississippi in its opening round game 77-64 on Monday and then defeated No. 4 seed Odessa (Texas) 92-68 on Tuesday. After a day off, they continued their march through the tournament field with a 105-76 victory over No. 12 Southwest Tennessee followed by an 83-47 rout of No. 8 Gillette (Wyo.) in Friday night’s semifinals.
Salt Lake wraps up its 2016 campaign with a 31-8 overall record and its second national title in program history. Hutchinson, which made its fifth appearance in the national title game on Saturday, closes the season at 32-5.
Photos courtesy of Bob Hunter.