SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Oregon Tech’s bid to become the first NAIA Division II men’s basketball team to win four national championships came up short Tuesday at Sanford Pentagon.
Seventh-ranked Spring Arbor University, of Michigan, instead captured its first national crown in its first title game appearance, holding off a late charge by the No. 8 Owls for an 82-76 victory.
It was the 30th win of the season for the Cougars (30-7), champions of the Crossroads Conference. Oregon Tech finished the season 28-8.
Former North Medford standout Kaison Faust, a reserve freshman guard, had eight points and four rebounds for OIT, which was led by Mitchell Fink’s 25 points.
Faust erupted for 19 points in the Owls’ semifinal win the night before.
Spring Arbor began the game on an 8-0 run and led by as many as 12 points in the first half before the halftime tally settled at 44-35 in the Cougars’ favor.
Barely a minute into the second half, SAU bumped its lead to 15. It would be its largest, a margin it replicated a couple more times, the last at 57-42 with 15:23 remaining.
Oregon Tech gradually mounted a comeback, spurred by guard Fink.
After Faust made two free throws to pull the Owls within 70-62 with 6:58 to play, Fink took control of the offense each time down the court and scored 12 of OIT’s final 14 points on an assortment of drives and jumpers.
His biggest play came when he swished a 3-pointer and was fouled by Paul Marandet. Fink converted the free throw to get the Owls within 73-68 with 3:58 remaining.
Oregon Tech pulled within four points four times thereafter, but no closer. Fink’s layup with 17.6 seconds left was the last time the margin was that close, 80-76. However, SAU inbounded and worked the ball up the court for an easy layup by Brandon Durnell before the Owls could get a foul.
Durnell led SAU with 32 points.
Oregon Tech, which returns a majority of its players, won national championships under head coach Danny Miles in 2004, ‘08 and ‘12.