KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Match Burnham isn’t a morning person.
Sure, he’d wake up for the early morning class or practice, but he’d just as soon sleep in if he could.
“Everybody doesn’t really like to wake up early, right?” Burnham joked.
Burnham’s morning routine included getting up, watching game film, showering and of course grabbing some caffeine before heading to the arena.
“I knew I was going to need it,” Burnham said.
And it obviously worked.
Burnham scored a season-high 34 points to help lead the Saints defeat against Oklahoma City 80-69, punching their ticket to the quarterfinals of the NAIA Division I Men’s Tournament.
The quarterfinal appearance is the Saints’ second in three seasons.
“They were incredibly good,” Carroll coach Kurt Paulson said. “They are one of the most athletic teams down here. We knew we had to be ready from the start and slow them down somehow.”
Carroll only had 19 hours to prepare after playing at 12:30 p.m. yesterday and scouting the Stars right after.
But Paulson’s game plan was simple. All they needed to do was get the ball to his 6-foot-8 senior.
Burnham isn’t a stranger to big, productive games. He scored more than 30 points in five games this season.
After just eight minutes, he already had 11 points and his team held a 19-13 lead.
“The guys are really good at finding him and getting him the ball,” Paulson said. “(After that,) he just took advantage.”
Burnham continued as the man on a mission as Carroll remained in control for the remainder of the first half.
The Saints took a 34-30 halftime lead when Eetu Villa hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Burnham continued as a powerful presence, giving Oklahoma City trouble inside.
As more Oklahoma City players got into foul trouble, Carroll increased its lead by as many as 11 points.
Not only were the Stars dealing with Burnham, giving them fits down in the post, they also could not hit a 3-pointer.
They made just two of their first 13 shots beyond the arc, a day after they made a season-best 15 3-pointers.
Finally, Oklahoma City started to hit a couple of shots and the once 48-37 lead turned into a slim 66-64 margin with just under five minutes left.
“Two good teams were just going at it,” Burnham said. “Luckily, we were able to hold on. That was tough.”
The Saints started to pull away in the final two minutes after Dane Warp hit two shots in the final two minutes, and the celebration began when Jovan Sljivancanin sealed the game with a free-throw in the final 34 seconds.
Carroll will now play at 6:30 p.m. Saturday against the winner of No. 1 Benedictine and No. 4 Pikeville contest. That game will be played at 6:30 p.m. today.
Regardless of who the Saints face, all the players are looking forward the opportunity to sleep in.
“We aren’t done yet,” Burnham said. “We need to go as far as we can go.”