KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Carroll College men’s basketball team has faced adversity all season.
Just ask senior Matt Wyman all about it.
“We aren’t worry about any adversity at this point,” Wyman said. “We will take anything you throw at us. Technicals. Injuries. Anything.”
The Saints resiliency was shown once again, this time during Saturday’s NAIA Division I quarterfinal against Pikeville of Kentucky when Match Burnham picked up two quick fouls.
With Carroll’s senior leader and top scoring threat was on the bench teammates such as Wyman and junior guard Dane Warp took over the reins to cruise to a 72-56 win and clinch a spot in the semifinals for the first time since the 2005 season.
“There are so many emotions right now,” said Wyman, who also finished with 15 points and six assists. “I feel like we have been working on getting here for four years and now that we are here, you look around at the other seniors and you look into their eyes. All those practices and all those summers of lifting and playing 3-on-3 (to get here) for the national tournament, we are finally over that hump into the (semifinals). It’s just amazing.”
The Saints reached the quarterfinals after defeating Oklahoma City on Friday morning and their offense picked up right where they left off.
Even with Burnham on the bench, Carroll kept pushing as it saw its lead increase to as many as six points after Warp nailed a 3-pointer with 13:41 remaining.
Minutes later freshman point guard Shamrock Campbell pulled up to hit a 3-pointer of his own while inside Jovan Sljivancanin showed off his length stealing away rebounds from Pikeville’s front court and answering with some putbacks.
Burnham and his two fouls returned with 30 seconds remaining in the first half just so he could give Carroll a 37-27 lead entering halftime after he converted a three-point play.
Even though Burnham was armed with two early fouls, Saints coach Kurt Paulson didn’t hesitate putting in his leading scorer.
“I trusted him and we rolled the dice a little bit but this is the final stretch,” Paulson said. “You have to put all the cards on the table.”
During the second half, Carroll never let its lead drop below eight points.
Senior guard Ife Kalejaiye hit two layups followed by a jump shot by Wyman
Burnham also returned to his old self, being a presence down low.
He played just 21 minutes but still finished with a team-high 20 points, while adding five rebounds.
Carroll increased its lead up to 70-38 with six minutes left, but the players knew they couldn’t let up.
“We all knew what was going to happen. We would be in a spot we have never been in before,” Warp said. “But we had to stay level headed and finish the game.”
Carroll held Pikeville to its lowest point total in two seasons under coach Kelly Wells, when it took it’s top post presence out of the equation.
“(Luke Layhew) is a very good post player so we wanted to limit his touches by fronting and backing him” Paulson said. “They just couldn’t get the ball to him.”
The Saints now face Frontier Conference rival Lewis-Clark State, who knocked off LSU-Alexandria in its quarterfinal game earlier this season.
“They are obviously playing well,” Paulson said. “It’ll be a great game.”