By THE HERALD-WHIG STAFF
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A weird start and a bizarre finish left the Culver-Stockton College men's basketball team in an unenviable position.
The Wildcats came up one point short of advancing.
With three-tenths of a second remaining in regulation and C-SC trailing top-ranked Cal State-San Marcos by three, the Wildcats' CJ Adams was fouled on a 3-point attempt and given three free throws. He made the first, but as he attempted the second, someone at the scorer's table inadvertently hit the buzzer.
How it affected Adams isn't clear, but he did miss the second free throw. It forced him to miss the third attempt in the hopes the Wildcats could get a tip-in. However, his free throw accidentally went in, saddling the Wildcats with a 92-91 loss in the second round of the NAIA Division I national tournament at Municipal Auditorium.
The Wildcats finish 24-8 following back-to-back national tournament appearances.
"I'm not only proud of them, but I'm proud of the way they do it," C-SC coach Jack Schrader told WGEM. "They have a lot of personality, a lot of charisma. They have put Culver-Stockton on the map nationally. I don't know if we're a national power, but we're on the national scene. Everybody knows about us. It's because of these guys and the work that they've done.
"A lot of people never, ever, ever in their career get to this spot, let alone twice."
An officiating blunder early in the game cost the Wildcats points as well.
C-SC opened the game on a 7-2, however a basket by the Wildcats' Mario Gulley the officials had counted never actually went in. Gulley was fouled on the play and awarded a free throw, which he missed. Two minutes later, during a timeout, the officials went to a video review, took away the basket but didn't give Gulley his second free throw.
It didn't stop the Wildcats from extending the lead.
C-SC pulled ahead by as many as seven points on three separate occasions in the first half and clung to a 34-31 after Gulley made back-to-back free throws with four minutes remaining in the half.
That's when San Marcos took control of the game. The Cougars went on a 12-3 run to close the half and take a 43-37 lead.
San Marcos' lead yo-yoed throughout the second half, ranging from four to 12 points, and the Cougars were up 85-74 with 5:11 to play when the Wildcats mounted a rally.
James Johnson's 3-pointer with 2:48 remaining capped an 13-3 run that pulled C-SC within 88-87.
Four free throws by the Cougars' Bobby Macias and another jumper by Johnson left San Marcos ahead 92-89 with 45 seconds remaining. C-SC chose not to foul and forced San Marcos to take a timeout with 14 seconds remaining on the game clock and five seconds left on the shot clock.
Just as the shot clock was to expire, the Cougars' Malcolm Lemmons missed a jumper. Adams came down with the rebound and pushed into the front court, taking the 3-pointer that drew a foul from San Marcos' De'End Parker.
The rest proved to be a painful way to end the season.
Johnson led C-SC with 26 points, while Gulley had 21 and Adams had 13.
Parker led five San Marcos players in double figures, scoring 20 points.