SPRINGFIELD, Mass. - When University of Findlay senior forward Josh Bostic, the Division II player of the year, fouled out of the national championship game with 3:40 left in overtime Saturday, he was replaced by senior guard Tyler Evans.
Cal Poly Pomona had to love this tradeoff. Bostic was an All-American who had scored 13 points and grabbed six rebounds. Evans hadn't made a field goal. He had no assists and just one rebound.
A valued reserve appeared ready to finish his career in miserable fashion. When Evans replaced Bostic in OT, he had a shot from the deep corner blocked nearly into the front row of the Mass Mutual Center. Even worse, Findlay trailed 51-48 with 2:00 left in overtime.
NANCY PALMIERI / AP Enlarge
An unbeaten season and a national title were slipping away.
"I had an open look blocked into the stands and I hadn't been productive,'' Evans admitted. "But I felt good shooting in this gym. You can't lack confidence in a tournament. It's do or die. I'm a shooter. I have no choice but to have confidence.''
So with 2.4 seconds left and the game tied at 53 in overtime and Findlay inbounding under its own basket, Evans received a pass from junior guard Marcus Parker. The Cal Poly Pomona defense blanketed Evans. He took a dribble left. He stopped and let a 25-footer fly as the buzzer sounded.
Then pandemonium set in as Evans was mobbed by his teammates. Findlay (36-0) had won the Division II national championship with a 56-53 victory over Cal Poly Pomona (25-8) before 4,885 fans. It was the first men's basketball championship in the school's history.
NANCY PALMIERI / AP Enlarge
Even though Evans hadn't made a field goal prior to the game-winner, Findlay coach Ron Niekamp drew up a play for his senior guard.
"The play was designed to get Tyler Evans a shot,'' Niekamp said. "He stepped to the side and launched it. It was right out of Hoosiers. Nothing but net.''
Evans had joked to senior teammate Aaron Laflin a day earlier that he envisioned hitting the game-winning shot - something he had never done in his career.''
"I kind of predicted a catch-and-shoot,'' Evans said. "But I was covered, so I had to step to the left to get separation.
"As soon as it went in, I think I blacked out or something. So I might have done something stupid. Then I heard whistles and was wondering if the shot counted.''
It counted, much to the chagrin of Cal Poly Pomona coach Greg Kamansky, whose team battled back from a 14-point deficit in the second half.
"We had good pressure on [Evans], and he was backing away from the basket,'' Kamansky said. "He kept backing up and backing up, God knows how far back. Then he makes a fadeaway. Give the kid credit. He made a great shot.''
Bostic, the tournament's most outstanding player, was hardly amazed by the heroics of Evans.
"I'm not surprised. Our guys step up all the time from the bench,'' Bostic said. "Tyler, a.k.a. 'Heavy,' has been hitting shots like that all year.''
Findlay's Morgan Lewis echoed Bostic's sentiments. Lewis had 12 points in the championship game.
"You come to our practices, you might see three or four of those,'' Lewis said with a smile in reference to the shot by Evans.
Findlay led 30-20 at halftime. The Oilers enjoyed a 36-22 lead early in the second half. They would score just six more points until the overtime started. Unranked Cal Poly Pomona tightened the screws on defense, resulting in a 42-42 game heading into the OT.
"When we were down 14, I said we were not going to out like this,'' Kamansky said. "We were not going to go down by getting beat handily. We got some confidence and found we could play with these guys.''
Senior guard Larry Gordon, who scored 15 of his 17 points in the second half, led the comeback. Gordon's efforts resulted in the first overtime in a Division II national championship game since 1973.
Findlay's players, meanwhile, figured they might have something special after losing an exhibition game only 79-76 to Xavier, a team that just missed making the Elite Eight in the NCAA tournament. The Oilers began the season ranked No. 1 in the National Association of Basketball Coaches poll and ended the season the same way.
"We had a great ride all year long,'' Laflin said. "We have guys with great characters, hard workers and good leaders. When we were able to hang with a Division I team, we believed that no one in Division II should beat us.''
No one did.42.10125 -72.58929
When University of Findlay senior forward Josh Bostic, the Division II player of the year, fouled out of the national championship game with 3:40 left in overtime Saturday, he was replaced by senior guard Tyler Evans.