OAKLAND CITY -- Oakland City University basketball men are champions after withstanding a champion-like comeback.
Erasing a 47-45 halftime deficit by scoring the second half's first 11 points, and then building 90-68 and 92-70 leads with 5 minutes, 30 seconds left, the Mighty Oaks withstood Wilberforce's spirited rally and prevailed 105-99 in Saturday night's Christian College National Invitational Tournament final in Johnson Center.
"This feels so good. Winning means everything. It's great that that Logan Worthington and Andrew Scott are ending their college careers as champions," said Pike Central-bred 6-foot-7 junior Tyler Toopes, named the tournament's Most Valuable Player after following Friday's career-high 38 points vs. Campbellsville (Ky.)-Somerset by scoring a game-high 31 points and dishing a game-high seven assists.
Of the MVP Award: ""I couldn't have done it without my teammates," said the 20-year-old Toopes, who came to Oakland City after two junior college seasons at Danville (Ill.) Community.
"We knew we could do this, but we couldn't have done it without all our guys," said the Evansville Reitz-bred 23-year-old Worthington, named Player of the Tournament after authoring 27 points, nine rebounds, four assists and three steals as the Mighty Oaks extended on e school record with their 19th straight win and tied another by matching the 24 wins by their 2017-18 predecessors who fell 87-80 to Wilberforce in the CCNIT final. Saturday's win repeated an 81-67 February 23 home win in which they came from 12 points behind.
The Bulldogs, before finishing with an 8-17 record, turned up full-court pressure and with 10 straight points moved within 97-89, then 99-91 and 101-93, and within 103-96 when 6-1 senior Tony Collins hit a three with 12 seconds left.
Collins who scored a team-high 16 points; and 6-3 junior Diamondt Thomas each made the all-tournament team that includes the South Knox-bred 6-6 Scott, 6-7 Albion, Ill.-bred sophomore center Nathaniel Schmittler, and 5-11 North Posey-bred freshman point-guard Jacob Sanford.
Yes, all five OCU starters are all-tournament. And sixthman Bryant Nalley, 6-7 freshman from Pike Central, helped weather the late storm by hitting two free throws at 33 seconds and two more at 18.
Schmittler's two freebies at 9.7 ticks preceded three by Collins and the in-bound pass to sophomore Kase Robinson, who entered when Scott fouled out with 42.6 seconds left.
The 21-year-old Scott, who authored 13 points, five assists, four rebounds and two shot-blocks, described the post-game as "such a good feeling. I wanted to be playing at the end, but I had confidence in my teammates. Early and late, we had to keep pushing"
The 19-year-old Sanford, who shot 3-for-4 on thres while authoring 11 points, five assists and four rebounds and doing most of the ball-handling against pressure defense, said his post-game feeling was "pretty great. I never experienced anything like this in high school.
"We stayed confident throughout the kept moving the ball. I don't let the pressure get to me. You can't."
The 21-year-old Schmittler, who shot 5-for-5 afield while producing 15 points, a game-high 11 rebounds, four assists and two steals, "felt relieved when the final horn sounded. They kept pushing and it was scary. We had to be strong with the ball the second half and control the boards. Even when we were struggling near the end, I felt we'd be all right."
The 19-year-old Nalley, whose eight points in 14 minutes included 6-for-7 free throwing, said he felt confident about last-minute foul shots because "I did that in high school. It's a natural thing. Doing in tonight feels pretty special."
Sandifar said the Mighty Oaks made a defensive change to start the second half.
"We'd been stepping out and going over the top of their screens. That's what we've done for 20 years. But the second half we went behind the screens. I told the guys that if we did that, their guys would have to to run over our big guy to get to the basket."
Marshall each took a team-high five rebounds and Collins dished a game-high four assists.
The Mighty Oaks won with one of their best shooting nights, 31-for-48 (64.6 percent) from the field including 10-for-19 (52.6 percent) on threes and 33-for-42 (78.6 percent) afield.
The first half they shot 7-for-12 on treys, the second half 16-for-22 overall.
Scott's 13 Saturday points raised his second-in-school-history career total to 2,175; Jim Fleming scored 2,402 from 1970-71 through 1973-74.
Worthington's 27 raised his three-year career total to 1,523, eighth all-time; while Saturday's nine rebounds jumped his career number to 806 -- third all-time behind 2015 grad Brandon Morton's 968 and 1998 grad Stuart Logve's 915.
This CCNIT championship, the Mighty Oaks' first since 2015, makes the 22-year-old Robertson "feel pretty good" even though he didn't play Saturday. "It's fun to just be around these guys." To which Sandifar said:
"Our players are great people. They'll make a difference in the world, not just in basketball."