The old adage of it's tough to beat a team three times in one season came true Tuesday night in Atchison, Kan.
The top-ranked Benedictine Ravens had twice defeated the Peru State men's basketball team during the season on their way to the Heart of America Athletic Conference (Heart) regular season title.
The Bobcats turned the tables on Benedictine on the Ravens' home court – the Ralph Nolan Gymnasium – by claiming their first postseason title in the Heart. Peru State topped the Ravens 74-65 in front of a packed house.
With the win, Peru State improved to 23-10 on the season. This is the most wins in a single season since the 1996-97 team which finished 25-9. The 2015-16 Bobcat team finished 22-11. Benedictine's 29-game winning streak was snapped as the Ravens are now 30-3.
Both teams will be playing in the NAIA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament to be held in Kansas City, Mo., March 20-26.
First Half Action
The Ravens scored the first points of the contest on a trey. It would be nearly three minutes before the Bobcats got on the board as both teams had a little case of the nerves early on. Jamil Maddred (Camden, N.J.) would get a bucket at the 17:19 mark to put the 'Cats on the board.
Peru State would have their first lead at 7-5 after Lyle Hexom (Omaha) hit a trey at the 15:43 mark off an assist from Brandon Jones (Houston). Benedictine would come back to tie it at 7-7, but Jones would complete an old-fashioned three-point play to put the Bobcats up by three. Another three-pointer by Hexom, this time on an assist from Terry Moore Jr. (Kansas City, Kan.), put the 'Cats up by six – their largest lead to that point with 13:39 left in the first half.
Benedictine would storm back to knot it up at 13 apiece as the 12:04 mark only to see Deonte McReynolds (Chicago) hit a trey to put the Bobcats in the lead for the rest of the first half.
The Bobcats would have their largest lead of the first half at 26-17 after Hexom made a basket in the paint with 6:48 left in the half. Benedictine would get back within two at 29-27 before Hexom hit a bucket which was followed by a two-pointer by Jones to make the score 33-27. The Ravens would score a bucket to cut the deficit to four at halftime.
Second Half Action
Benedictine would score the first eight points of the second half to lead 37-33 after just the first three minutes. Hexom stopped the Ravens' run with a basket and hit a pair of free throws to tie it up at 16:06.
The game would later be tied at 42-42 before Tyrone Carey Jr. (Aurora, Ill.) drained a trey to break the tie at the 12:45 mark. Ironically, this would give Peru State the lead for the rest of the contest.
The 'Cats would have their first double-digit lead after Hexom completed another three-point play to make the score 64-53 with just over three minutes left in the game.
The Ravens did cut the score to six at 64-58 at the 2:19 mark. Hexom again came up big and hit a long trey which was followed by a pair of free throws by Maddred. With 91 second left in the championship game, the 'Cats led by 11.
A pair of buckets by Benedictine cut the deficit again to seven, but that would be as close as the Ravens would get the rest of the game.
As the Bobcat faithful were hollering, "MVP," Hexom would drain a pair of free throws with seven seconds left to close the scoring of the game.
The Bobcats did not have one of their better shooting nights as they made 27 of 68 field goals for 39.7% which did include hitting 9 of 27 from long range for 33.3%. From the charity stripe, the 'Cats made 11 of 15 for 73.3%. Benedictine did shoot better from the floor than Peru State as they connected on 24 of 56 tries for 42.9%. The Ravens hit 6 of 26 three-point tries for 23.1%. Benedictine finished 11 of 16 from the free throw line for 68.8%.
Peru State had a big rebounding edge as they finished with 47 rebounds compared to 33 for the Ravens. Benedictine finished with nine assists while the 'Cats had six. Both teams finished with 12 turnovers.
The Ravens blocked seven shots while Peru State had two. The 'Cats doubled up Benedictine in steals finishing with four.
Peru Player Statistics
Four Bobcats finished in double figures and were led by Hexom who had a team-high 25 points. Maddred added 15 while Jones contributed 11. Moore Jr. added 10.
Jones had another double-double as he had a team-high ten rebounds. Hexom was one shy of a double-double while KeShawn Wilson (Lincoln) grabbed seven caroms.
Maddred and Jones each dished out two assists. Hexom and Jones were each credited with one blocked shot. McReynolds, Jones, Moore Jr., and Michael Wardy(Roca) each had one steal.
NAIA Division I Men's Basketball Championship
Peru State will be competing in its second-straight NAIA DI MBB Championship and its third in the last four years. The tournament will be held March 20-26 in the Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City, Mo.
To find more details on the tournament, please go to: https://goo.gl/3N6Agx