The Southwestern College men's basketball team saw their season come to an end Friday evening, losing in the Round of 16 of the NAIA National Tournament to the No. 3 seeded Marian Knights out of Indianapolis by a score of 82-70.
The final score did not show or indicate how close and competitive the game was throughout its entirety, as a one-point lead for Southwestern at halftime forecasted the type of game the fans and teams would see down the stretch.
Fast forwarding to nearly halfway through the second frame, two free throws by Cameron Hunt (SR/Duncanville, Texas) around the 11-minute mark had extended the Builders' current lead to nine, their biggest of the game. It appeared to many that the Builders were going to perhaps pull away- a trait they have shown all year, specifically in the second half-- grinding away at their opponent defensively and putting the pressure on them on offense.
From there the Knights, who come from arguably the toughest conference in the nation and ranked No. 11 overall in the country, used offensive production from their three-headed attack, with two of them in Wes Stowers and Reginald Kissoonlal taking over the game. Kissoonlal, a seven-footer and former NCAA Division I player at Northwestern State, scored the first seven points of the game for the Knights and had 24 points and 10 rebounds in the game. He, along with Stowers who also had 24, was a huge part in the Knights comeback. Less than four minutes passed from the Builders' nine-point advantage, a 13-4 Marian run had tied the game at 61 and would be the last time the Moundbuilders saw a lead, with Stowers hitting a three-pointer on the next possesion to regain total control for the Knights.
Down as many as seven on two different instances late in the game, Hunt cut the deficit down to 74-70 with just over a minute to play with a three-pointer from the corner. Unfortunately, a great defensive effort from the Builders was spoiled as Marian grabbed an offensive rebound and second-chance to score to put the game away for good.
Hunt ends his career with Southwestern as the program's all-time lead scorer and leading assists getter. The 2018-19 KCAC player of the year finished with 27 points and 10 rebounds in his final collegiate game. Brent Smith (SR/Goddard, Kan.) also ended his time at Southwestern with a 10-point, five-rebound performance.
The Moundbuilders end the season with a 28-5 record, tying the all-time mark for most wins in a season, It was the second straight season the team had secured an NAIA Tournament victory and the back-to-back Round of 16 appearances go down as the first and second eversince the NAIA became two divisions in the early 1990s. The team also earned a KCAC conference tournament first the time in school history, snapping a three-game losing skid in the finals.
Southwestern will send off four fantasic seniors that helped mold such a spectacular season and culture within the program. Joining Hunt and Smith in departure will be Kyrece Mills (SR/Raleigh, N.C.) and Simpson Anderson (SR/Baton Rouge, La.). The Builders will return three starters heading into the 2019-20 season.