INDIANAPOLIS – The Marian men’s basketball team completed the Crossroads League Tournament in style, defeating St. Francis (Ind.) 86-71 in the championship game on Monday night to win their first tournament title since the 2000-01 season. The Knights used a commanding 15-4 run to open the door in the second half, putting the game at ease early. Marian’s record improves to 22-4 after winning the program’s third overall tournament championship, and first in 20 seasons.
The championship game started with physical defense from both sides, as the game was scoreless through the opening two and a half minutes. St. Francis put up the first points of the game, but Marian responded with a Christian Harvey three, opening the lid on both sides. Cameron Wolter gave Marian the lead at the meida timeout, and within a minute of the stoppage Wolter and Harvey increased Marian’s lead to 9-4.
The Knights continued to score as Harvey and Wolter engineered the offense, combining for Marian’s first 16 points to increase the lead to double figures. A three from Christian Stewart pushed Marian’s lead to 13 with 12:02 remaining, but the Cougars answered with a run of their own, ending the Knights’ 16-2 run. The Cougars’ Brayton Bailey was the catalyst of the visitor’s run, draining a pair from deep and finishing a three-point play to cut the lead down five. St. Francis soon cut the gap to three at the second media timeout, and following a stoppage scored six unasnwered to lead 24-23. Marian responded with a five-point swing from Tyrie Johnson, putting Marian back in the lead.
Marian finished the first half on a 13-6 advantage, with a pair of Malek Edmonds three-pointers fueling the run. Marian led 41-30 at halftime, with Harvey, Wolter, Johnson, Stewart, and Edmonds making up each of the Knights’ 41 points.
Wolter opened the second half scoring with a post finish 12 seconds into the half, beginning a 15-4 charge for the Knights in the first three minutes of the period. St. Francis snapped the run with a pair of buckets from Jalan Mull and Antwaan Cushingberry, but Marian was able to recapture their 20-point lead after a trey from Stewart. Marian continued to hold their lead at 18 points or more, scoring on over half of their possessions in the first 10 minutes of the half.
Marian built a 21-point, 68-47 lead with 10:07 remaining, and never looked back as they continued to attack the basket. The lead shot up to 25 points following baskets from Edmonds and Wolter with over six minutes to play, as the Cougars couldn’t do anything to defend the Knights’ effective offense. A stepback three from Stewart with over four minutes to took the life out of any St. Francis comeback attempt, putting Marian on top by 26.
With the game in check, the Knights rotated in their bench over the final four minutes of the game, and cruised to their first Crossroads League Tournament Championship in 20 seasons with an 86-71 victory of St. Francis.
Marian shot 51 percent from the floor in their tournament win, and were led by Wolter and Harvey who each scored 17 points. Wolter snagged 10 rebounds to secure a double-double, while Harvey had seven. Stewart and Johnson both finished in double figures with 14 and 13, respectively, while Edmonds scored 13 off the bench.
Marian has clinched one of the two bids from the Crossroads League for the NAIA National Tournament, and will await their NAIA Opening Round pairings. The NAIA Selection Show is Thursday night at 8:00 p.m. EST.