Ill. - As he has done so many times this season with the game in
doubt, Billy Finnell lifted Northern Kentucky University to a victory
Saturday with his last-minute heroics.
Finnell, a freshman point guard, scored five points in the final
minute of the game as NKU pulled out a 72-66 win over Lewis in the
Neil Carey Arena. The Norse improved to 17-10 overall, 12-7 in the
Great Lakes Valley Conference.
Finnell’s contested layup with 59 seconds remaining snapped
a 65-all deadlock and gave NKU a 67-65 lead. After Pat Monaghan
missed a 3-pointer on Lewis’ ensuing possession, Finnell rebounded
the ball and ran the clock down under 15 seconds.
The freshman then sealed the win for NKU by taking the ball to
the basket, drawing contact and making a layup while being fouled.
He converted the free throw to give NKU a 70-65 lead with 11.6 seconds
left in the game.
“Billy made really good decisions late by taking it hard
to the basket, but he’s been doing that the entire season.
He has made a lot of big plays with the game on the line,”
NKU head coach Dave Bezold said. “He did it twice in this
game in the final minute. Last week at Kentucky Wesleyan, he also
won the game for us with a shot in the final seconds.”
Finnell, a graduate of Purcell Marian, finished with nine points
and a game-high eight assists. He also added four rebounds and two
Senior center Gavin Ludgood led the Norse with 13 points and eight
rebounds. Ludgood shot 6-for-9 from the field. Kevin Schappell and
Travis Rasso each scored 11 points for the Norse, who shot 59.1
percent from the field in the second half.
NKU took a 40-32 lead with 16 minutes left in the game on a basket
by Mark Hawkins. Lewis (13-14 overall, 7-12 GLVC) rallied and gained
a 47-46 advantage with 11:02 remaining on a conventional three-point
play by Dustin Warfield.
NKU forged a five-point lead (60-55) on a 3-pointer by Vincent
Humphrey with 5:32 remaining, but Lewis used a 7-2 run to even the
score at 62-all on John Loeffelholz’s basket with 3:43 left
on the clock. Enter Finnell, who finished off Lewis in the final
minute and sent NKU to the GLVC Tournament on a winning note.
“Our guys showed a lot of composure after Lewis tied it late,
and we needed this win to solidify our position for the NCAA Tournament,”
NKU will begin play
at the GLVC Tournament Friday at 1 p.m. (Eastern) by facing Southern
Illinois at Edwardsville. The Cougars - who had two chances at home
this week to secure the No. 1 seed in the GLVC West Division, but
lost consecutive games to Rockhurst and Drury - will enter the postseason
as the No. 3 seed from the GLVC West.
NKU is the No. 2 seed
from the GLVC East. The NKU/SIUE winner will advance to the GLVC
semifinals at 7 p.m. Saturday and face the survivor of the Quincy/Wisconsin-Parkside