By BLAKE TOPPMEYER
Herald-Whig Sports Writer
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Marshawn Norris stayed true to his word.
The senior point guard on the Culver-Stockton College men's basketball team said before the start of the NAIA Division I national tournament that he wouldn't be satisfied with anything less than a championship.
After the Wildcats lost 86-82 to No. 13-ranked Georgetown (Ky.) in Saturday's quarterfinals at Municipal Auditorium, Norris said returning to Canton, Mo., without a championship trophy "definitely isn't OK."
Yet, Norris also offered the perfect words to sum up C-SC's outhouse-to-penthouse turnaround, in which the Wildcats went from a 4-24 team last season to a team that reached the national tournament for the first time since 1959 and finished 26-9.
"It was a magical season," said Norris, who tallied a game-high 27 points and 10 assists. "We played our hearts out every game."
The Wildcats simply ran out of magic in the final 20 minutes.
Georgetown's Monty Wilson, who tallied 23 points and nine rebounds, made a long two-pointer with 31 seconds to play to push the Tigers ahead 84-82. It marked their first advantage since Georgetown led 21-20 midway through the first half.
Wilson's jumper came after he grabbed a rebound of Garel Craig's miss. Georgetown (26-8) called a timeout with 54.6 seconds remaining and spread the court for Wilson. He made the game-winner despite being defended by CJ Adams, the Heart of America Athletic Conference's Defensive Player of the Year.
"I think CJ was waiting for a pick-and-roll. That's what we had the defense set up for," C-SC coach Jack Schrader said. "We were going to hedge hard on the pick and squeeze from the off-side guy to take the roll guy. And there just wasn't any pick. It was a great shot."
On the ensuing possession, Norris penetrated into the lane and dished to Austin Keaton in the left corner. Keaton's 3-pointer missed off the back iron, and Georgetown's Russ Middleton grabbed the rebound and sank a pair of free throws to seal the Tigers' semifinal appearance against Louisiana State-Shreveport (27-6).
"Marshawn gave me a great look, and I just unfortunately couldn't knock it down for us," said Keaton, who scored 19 points and was 3 of 7 from 3-point range.
None of the Wildcats could hit a shot down the stretch. Norris' bucket in the paint put C-SC ahead 80-74 with 4:28 remaining. That proved to be C-SC's last field goal. Adams missed a pair of free throws with 1:31 to play with the game tied at 82.
"We just didn't make plays (late in the game)," Norris said "We didn't make the plays we should have."
That was in stark contrast to the first half.
C-SC made its first seven field-goal attempts, started 6 of 7 from 3-point range and took a 52-37 lead into halftime. C-SC closed the half on a 22-8 run.
"Shots were falling," said Norris, who drained five first-half 3-pointers, including a couple long bombs. "When we're making shots, we're the best team in the country."
The Wildcats were 11 of 15 from beyond the arc at halftime and were 14 of 20 from distance after James Johnson drained a trey to give C-SC a 67-57 lead with 12:54 remaining.
They finished 16 of 32 from 3-point range and didn't make a triple in the final six minutes. C-SC shot 29.4 percent from the field in the second half after shooting 62.5 percent before halftime.
"It's a big game," Schrader said, "and the worst thing to think about is missing. The next worst is thinking about making. When you're just shooting, then it goes (in). Just because of the situation, I think we started thinking about it a little too much."
Georgetown stole the momentum by starting the second half on a 16-4 run.
"Every team that wants to do something special has games like (this and has) to fight back," Georgetown coach Chris Briggs said. "Our guys responded."
The Tigers continued to hang close thanks in large part to Allan Thomas. He scored 14 of his 18 points during Georgetown's 20-13 run that trimmed C-SC's lead to 80-77.
A pair of free throws from Craig, who scored 21 points, tied the game with 2:20 to play before Wilson's jumper ended the Wildcats' deepest postseason run in program history.
"We're down right now, but we had a heck of a season," Keaton said. "I couldn't be more proud of this team."