FORT WAYNE, Ind. — It was unquestionably the greatest season in Mount Union men's basketball history, and nothing will tarnish what this group of 25 Ohioans accomplished.
Still, the ending is going to sting for quite a long time
The Purple Raiders fell to Christopher Newport 74-72 Saturday in the championship game of the NCAA Division III tournament. Trey Barber's driving layup as time expired game the Captains out of Virginia their first national title.
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Things started off well for Mount in Fort Wayne, Indiana, with the Raiders building a 14-point lead in the first half. However, Newport (30-3) stormed back with a 14-3 run, and trailed only 29-26 at intermission.
A Barber free throw finally put Christopher Newport in front with 8:38 to go, and the lead eventually swelled to seven with less than four minutes left. However, the Captains struggled from the charity stripe down the stretch, and Mount Union (30-3) slowly chipped away. After a Purple Raiders steal, Christian Parker's put-back put them back in front by one with just 17 ticks left on the clock, adding to the OAC Player of the Year's 31 points and 14 rebounds.
Just four seconds later, Newport's Ty Henderson laid it in and completed a three-point play to make it 72-70 Captains, but Parker tied it up once more with 4.2 to go. But Barber was able to essentially go coast-to-coast, and with Parker right in his face managed to bank it in off the glass as the buzzer sounded.
Barber led Christopher Newport with 25 points on 10 of 15 shooting along with 12 rebounds, and Josh Hines added 18 with six boards. Collen Gurley scored 16 for the Raiders, while Jeffrey Mansfield had 11 points, six rebounds, and five assists before fouling out.
Prior to the 2022-23 season, Mount Union had never been past the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament, but won 14 in a row down the stretch including the OAC Tournament title and a 20-point comeback in the national semifinals. It represents the renaissance the program under head coach Mike Fuline, who has won 224 games in 12 seasons with four tourney berths.