KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Carroll College men’s basketball seemed like it was riding a wave of momentum through the NAIA Division I Tournament this past week.
The Saints won four in a row, took down their conference rival and made it to their first ever national championship game.
But that momentum hit a wall Tuesday night when they ran into Georgetown College of Kentucky.
The Tigers’ size and fast-faced style was too much for Carroll to overcome as it lost 68-48 in front of 3,154 fans in Municipal Auditorium.
“Our guys gave it everything they had,” Carroll coach Kurt Paulson said. “It just wasn’t our night and they are an incredible team."
It didn’t take long for Georgetown to get rolling as its leading scorer Troy Steward scored the five of the Tigers’ first seven points.
Add some baskets by Brodricks Jones and Chris Coffey, and Georgetown was already ahead by 10 points with 12:31 remaining in the first half.
“Their size and athleticism just manhandled us,” senior guard Matt Wyman said. “I think every year Kansas City reminds us that we should have gotten into the weight room (more.) Some of these guys are huge and I’m here at a buck 80. They were definitely bigger than what we see in the Frontier (Conference).”
On the other end of the court, Carroll just couldn’t make shots.
While the Saints are known from crisp ball movement and a low post offense, they just couldn’t get senior forward Match Burnham the ball.
And as a result, Carroll was settling for 3-pointers.
The Saints missed their first nine shots from behind the arc until senior Ife Kalejaiye pulled up from the top of the key for the team’s only 3-pointer of the half.
“I thought we executed what we wanted to do, but we just didn’t get the buckets to go down,” Paulson said.
Georgetown sped up the offense and by the end of the first half, the Tigers held a 35-15 advantage.
The Saints were held to just 19 percent shooting, made just 1 of 13 3-pointers and was held to the fewest first-half points this season.
“Our guys just ran out of gas,” Paulson said. “Unfortunately it had to be in this game.”
Carroll’s struggles continued in the second half as it still couldn't find offensive production.
Saints junior guard Dane Warp started the half with two layups but 3-pointers remained offline.
Tigers juniors Eljay Cowherd and Chris Coffey both had beak out individual games during earlier in the tournament. Georgetown also became unselfish. No player finished with more than 15 points.
Coffey did finish with 16 rebounds that led him to win tournament MVP award.
Carroll cut the lead down to 18 points with minutes remaining but time was running out.
Soon after Georgetown was celebrating its third title in school history.
“We represented our state and Carroll College to the best of our ability and I’m so proud of this season,” Paulson said. “It’s just bitter sweet. You want to take that one last step but you have to congratulate Georgetown. It has quite the team."
The Saints are set to graduate its four seniors that includes Burnham, Wyman, Kalejaiye and Alejandro Santos Piqueras. As they stood outside their locker room they couldn’t help but look back on their historic season.
“It was so tough to realize this was the last time you were going to play with those guys,” Wyman said. “We have worked for four years to get here and we gave it everything. We set the bar high for the teams to come.”
Carroll finished with 29 wins just one shy from the program’s record of 30 set by the 2005-2006 season Paulson played on.