Nationally fifth-ranked Midwestern State shot 65 percent from the field in the second half and ended Arkansas Tech's deepest run in the NCAA Division II Men's Basketball Tournament by defeating the nationally 15th-ranked Wonder Boys 77-61 in the South Central Regional championship game at D.L. Ligon Coliseum in Wichita Falls, Texas, on Tuesday night.
The Mustangs broke open an even game midway through the second half with a 13-2 run over a span of 4:23. Kevin Grayer scored nine of those 13 points, and his bucket with eight minutes left gave Midwestern State a 59-49 lead.
"(Grayer) was unbelievable in the second half," said Arkansas Tech head coach Doug Karleskint. "He totally dominated us when he had the basketball. He was able to get into the paint and either kick it off or score. We couldn't get anything going because everytime we scored they would come back and hit an amazing shot."
Matt Haney's basket with 4:47 to go pulled Arkansas Tech within 61-55, but that was as close as the Wonder Boys could get. Ten straight Midwestern State points over a span of 2:47 closed the deal on the Mustangs' third consecutive NCAA Division II South Central Region championship.
The Mustangs (29-3) will face the nationally 12th-ranked Western Washington Vikings in the NCAA Division II Tournament national quarterfinals at the Bank of Kentucky Center in Highland Heights, Ky., on Wednesday, March 21.
Arkansas Tech finished its season with an overall record of 26-6, and Tech is now 51-12 in two years under Karleskint. This year's team became the first Wonder Boys squad to ever reach the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Division II Tournament.
"We couldn't keep their guards in front of us," said Karleskint, who saw Midwestern State make 17-of-26 field goal attempts in the second half. "It was a big accomplishment for us to get to the championship game of this regional as good and deep as it was. I am proud of our guys and the way we stuck together."
Six of the top 23 teams in the final National Association of Basketball Coaches NCAA Division II top 25 poll of the season competed in the South Central Regional.
Regional most outstanding player Michael Loyd scored 19 points for the Mustangs in their championship game victory. JaMichael Rivers added 16 points and Grayer's 13 points were a new season high for him. David Terrell notched 11 points and six rebounds.
Johnie Davis scored 19 points in his final game as a Wonder Boy. The senior from Canton, Ohio, scored 1,138 points in two years at Arkansas Tech.
Davis was 2011-12 Great American Conference player of the year and a 2011-12 All-NCAA Division II South Central Region selection. He was named to the all-tournament team for the 2012 NCAA Division II Tournament South Central Regional.
Haney scored 12 points for Arkansas Tech, nine of which came in a flurry over the first 2:32 of the second half. Mykel Cleveland notched 10 points and seven rebounds.
Davis, Haney, Cleveland and Blake Mitchem were part of a senior class that contributed to an 81-14 overall record for the Wonder Boys over the past three seasons.
The 2011-12 Wonder Boys were regular season and postseason champions of the GAC in the league's inaugural year. This was Arkansas Tech's fourth consecutive appearance in the NCAA Division II Tournament.
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