116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS – It's all about surviving to play another day, but with a deep exhale in between.
Mount Mercy's Alex Houston totaled a game-high 31 points – the last two on a pair of free throws after his game-saving block – and the top-seeded Mustangs (23-7) outlasted No. 8 Johnson & Wales (Colo.) in overtime, 99-94, in an Association of Independent Institutions Division II men's basketball quarterfinal Friday night at the U.S. Cellular Center.
'Found a way to win,' Mount Mercy Coach Aaron Jennings said. 'Doesn't matter if it's 40 minutes or 45 minutes, whatever it takes. When the buzzer goes to zero, you've got to be ahead.'
In a game that featured seven ties and 17 lead changes, Mount Mercy junior guard Sheawn Bedford, Jr. appeared poised to deliver the Mustangs the lead for good when he drilled a 3-pointer that beat the halftime horn. The jumper sent Mount Mercy to the locker room with a 43-41 lead, and the Mustangs continued the ride of momentum with a 20-7 spree to begin the second half for a 63-48 lead, their largest of the game.
Aggressive drives to the basket were the spark that delivered the surge.
'Coach always preaches that 3-pointers are good, but everybody has to be able to attack the rim and if there's a lane, take it,' Houston said. 'We're great at attacking the rim.'
Houston pulled down a game-high 12 rebounds for Mount Mercy, which possessed an 11-rebound advantage overall.
Mount Mercy senior guard Tre Wagner added 17 points, eight rebounds and seven assists.
Former Linn-Mar prep Derik Gogg came off the bench and provided a spark late in the first half with eight points in the final seven minutes of the frame.
Johnson & Wales (15-16) forced overtime with a jarring 17-4 burst over the final four-plus minutes of regulation, but Mount Mercy gathered itself during the overtime break and scored six of eight points to begin the extra session. Its overtime lead was cut to one on three occasions, but was never relinquished.
With the Mustangs clinging to a 97-94 lead, Houston snuffed out the final threat with a block of an attempted 3-pointer with 2.0 seconds left.
'I know he wasn't going to drive because they needed a three,' Houston said. 'I just kind of watched his hips and saw him go up and made a perfect-timing block.'
Houston was named to the AII first team before the tournament, while Wagner was a second-team selection. Jennings was named AII coach of the year.
Bedford, Jr. finished with 11 points, while junior Chris Ford chipped in 12.
Mount Mercy can clinch a berth in the NAIA Division II national tournament with a semifinal victory at 4 p.m. Saturday. Either way, the Mustangs are guaranteed a Sunday game, either in the championship or the consolation game.
AT US CELLULAR CENTER
JOHNSON & WALES (Col.) (94): Andrew Romero III 9-16 3-4 23, Jontrell Herman 6-12 6-7 19, Aaron Stone 5-13 7-8 17, Andrew Bonner 8-13 0-0 16, Damon Bates 3-10 3-4 11, Justin Lee 2-3 2-2 6, Bryson Sharpley 1-1 0-0 2, Zeldon Peterson 0-0 0-0 0, Bailey Stephens 0-0 0-0 0. Totals
34-68 21-25 94.
MOUNT MERCY (99):
Alex Houston 11-17 9-10 31, Tre Wagner 7-15 3-4 17, Chris Ford 5-8 2-3 12, Sheawn Bedford, Jr. 5-10 0-1 11, Derik Gogg 2-3 4-4 8, Ben Struss 3-8 0-0 6, Mychael Brawner 2-3 0-0 5, CJ Parker 2-3 1-2 5, Kyle Lamaak 0-4 4-4 4, Antwain Strong 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 37-71 23-28 99.
Halftime— MM 43-41. 3-point goals— JW 5-14 (Romero III 2-3, Bates 2-5, Herman 1-3, Stone 0-3), MM 2-11 (Bedford, Jr. 1-4, Brawner 1-1, Struss 0-3, Parker 0-1, Lamaak 0-1, Wagner 0-1). Fouled out — Stone , Bonner, Parker. Rebounds— MM 42 (Houston 12), JW 31 (Stone 9). Assists— MM 18 (Wagner 7), JW 11 (Herman 4). Total fouls— MM 20, JW 23. Technical fouls—
Bedford (MM), Bonner (JW).
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