By Matt Green
No. 4 Mid-America Christian (17-12) vs. No. 5 Shorter (18-11)
NCCAA Men's Basketball Championship • Wednesday, March 13 • 12 pm • Winona Lake, Ind.
WINONA LAKE, Ind. – It's not often you get second chances in life, or in sports. This week in Winona Lake, Ind., the Shorter men's basketball team is getting just that.
One year after making waves in their final year in the NAIA by reaching the Fab Four of the national tournament in their first-ever appearance, the Hawks are geared up for another national tourney run, this time at the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA) Division I Men's Basketball Championship, which begins Wednesday at Grace College.
Shorter, the eight-team tournament's No. 5 seed, will take on fourth-seeded Mid-America Christian at 12 noon in Wednesday's first men's quarterfinal. The winner will face the victor of the matchup between top-seeded Fresno Pacific and eighth-seeded Roberts Wesleyan in Thursday's 3:30 pm semifinal.
The Hawks (18-11) earned an automatic bid to the national tournament by capturing the NCCAA South Region title with an 87-75 win over Southern Wesleyan last Saturday. This is Shorter's first NCCAA Men's Basketball Championship appearance in its first year of membership in the organization.
Mid-America Christian (17-12), a NAIA institution that is a member of the vaunted Sooner Athletic Conference, played its way into the national tournament by winning the NCCAA Central Region championship, upsetting the region's top seed McMurry, 68-66. The Evangels have already won four NCCAA national championships and are making their 22nd appearance in the national event.
Although a matchup between the tournament's No. 4 and No. 5 seeds, The Shorter-MACU showdown features several of the tournament's most exciting players.
The Evangels are led by Sooner Athletic Conference Player of the Year and NCCAA Central Region MVP Charlie Shorter, who is putting up 23.1 points a game. He averaged 31.7 points per game in the Central Region Tournament, including a 44-point outburst in the regional semifinal against Oklahoma Christian.
6-foot-4 forward Angelo Lewis anchors Mid-America Christian in the paint, ranking second on the team in scoring at 14.5 points per game while having led the SAC in rebounding during the season at 8.2 rebounds a game. Point guard Camilo Valencia averages 10.7 points and is dishing out 3.8 assists each time out for veteran head coach Willie Holley, who is in his 40th season as Evangels head coach and ranks second all-time in the NAIA with 767 career victories.
Shorter will counter with a foursome that guided the Hawks to a solid first season on the NCAA Division II level within the Gulf South Conference.
Forward Anthony Banks leads Shorter in both scoring (15.3) and rebounding (7.6) average and is shooting 57 percent from the floor.
6-foot-5 guard Walter Hill is putting up 14.9 points and 6.2 rebounds per game and point guard Dedric Ware is coming off a fantastic South Region Tournament, where he averaged 18.7 points and dropped in a career-high 27 points in the regional final. For the season, Ware is averaging 14.2 points, 5.5 assists and a team-high 1.8 steals.
Guard Kenny Leverette is having the best season of his Shorter career, averaging 10.6 points and 5.2 rebounds, and will be tasked with guarding MACU's Shorter as the Hawks' best perimeter defender.
Tomorrow's game will be broadcast live on WATG-FM 95.7 The Ridge and via a live webcast that can be accessed by following the link on the Shorter Athletics homepage. Tourbeau Sports is also providing a live video feed for all tournament games. The live video site can be found here.