MONMOUTH, Ore. – Dixie State’s monstrous win streak had to end eventually, but to have it happen in the first round of the NCAA Division II West Regional really hurts.
Dixie State dominated the boards, but the dagger in the game ironically came off an offensive rebound by the Cougars. Brandon Simister had just cut it to a 66-65 game with a 3-pointer from top of the key with 49 seconds left. Azusa Pacific ran the shot clock down and attempted a trey with 19 seconds left. It was an airball, but Petar Kutlesic plucked the ball out of the air and laid it in just before the shot clock expired.
A potential tying trey by Trevor Hill with six seconds left was off the mark and the Cougars iced the game with a free throw with one second to play for the final margin.
DSU led by three at the half at 32-29 and briefly held a six-point advantage at 48-42 after a tip-in by Austin Montgomery with 10:47 left in the game. APU fought back with back-to-back treys by Darien McClain to tie the game at 48-48 with 9:19 left to play.
From that point on, neither team could pull away. In fact, there were six lead changes and eight ties in the last 10 minutes of the game. Azusa Pacific, which lost to Dixie State by 15 in their only other meeting earlier this season, finally got a little separation after the final media timeout with four minutes left.
With the score tied at 62-62, Selom Mawugbe got free inside to make it 64-62 with 2:47 left on the clock. Hill tried to get the lead back for DSU with a trey, but was wide right, barely drawing iron with 2:36 to play.
The Cougars missed at the other end on a trey by McClain, but Kutlesic got his ninth rebound of the game on a tip-in to make it 66-62 with 1:49 left on the clock. The Trailblazers ran a set play for Simister, but the senior guard missed a corner 3. However, Dub Price snatched the offensive rebound and kicked it back out to Simister, who had moved to the top of the key. Simister buried the deep ball this time, cutting it to 66-65 with 49 seconds left and setting up the end of game dramatics.
Dixie State owned a 44-35 advantage on the glass, including 19 offensive boards. Hill, in his final game in a Dixie State uniform, had 15 points and 11 rebounds. He closes his career as the second-highest scorer in DSU history behind former DSU star Zac Robbins.
Simister ended up with 17 points and made 4 of 9 3-pointers. He added to his DSU best record of made 3-pointers in a career.
But DSU shot a miserable 33.8 percent from the floor in the game (22 of 65) and battled foul trouble the entire contest. Big guy Isaiah Clark fouled out and another post, Montgomery, played with four fouls the final few minutes. DSU was playing without injured center Julian Ducree (knee).
McClain was a one-man wrecking crew for the Cougars, scoring 21 points and making 6 of 11 deep balls. Kutlesic ended up with 18 points and 10 rebounds.
The loss ends the season and stops a 17-game win streak by the Blazers. DSU finishes the year with a 23-7 record.
APU, 21-10, moves into Saturday’s West Regional semifinal and will play Cal Baptist at 8 p.m.
Stats: APU 69, DSU 65
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