National Champions: Golden Eagles Complete Cinderella Run

Kansas City, MO (March 22, 2005) — Junior guard and tournament Most Valuable Player Brandon Cole scored a game-high 25 points to lead unseeded John Brown University (Ark.) to a 65-55 victory over No. 9 Azusa Pacific University (Calif.) in the championship game of the 2005 Buffalo Funds-NAIA Division I Men’s Basketball National Championship Tuesday at Municipal Auditorium.

The Golden Eagles scored eight consecutive points late in the second half to grab the lead for good and win its first basketball national championship. John Brown, which entered the tournament as an at-large selection, finished the season with a record of 24-11. The Golden Eagles won 10 of their final 11 games on the year, and they become the first institution from the state of Arkansas to win the NAIA Division I men’s basketball national title.

“Can you believe this?,” said John Brown head coach John Sheehy. “I thought we opened well. We opened the second half pretty well too, but then we hit a streak when we didn’t play very good defense. We stressed to our kids at halftime that Azusa wasn’t through.”

Azusa Pacific led for most of the first half before John Brown ran off 14 straight points to build a 31-20 lead with a minute left in the period. Cole had 14 points in the opening half as the Golden Eagles grabbed a 31-23 lead at the intermission.

John Brown pushed its advantage to as many as 14 points before Azusa Pacific rallied. Two free throws by junior center Lance Soderberg capped a run of 13 consecutive points to help the Cougars regain a 49-48 lead with 5:12 remaining. On the Golden Eagles’ next possession, Cole made two free throws to spark John Brown’s decisive run. A three-pointer by senior forward Pat Smits with 1:53 on the clock extended the Golden Eagles’ lead to 56-49.

Smits, who joined Cole on the All-Tournament team, added 13 points and six rebounds for the Golden Eagles. Sophomore guard Adam Workman chipped in with 10 points, while senior center Ryan Woodson grabbed a team-high 10 rebounds for John Brown. Junior guard Alex Terry dished out a game-high eight assists.

Freshman guard Adam Greenaway led Azusa Pacific with 13 points, while senior guard Larry English connected for 12 points. Sophomore forward Spencer Foster pulled down a game-high 12 rebounds for the Cougars, who closed the season at 29-10. English and sophomore center Brice Prather were named to the All-Tournament.

Rounding out the All-Tournament team were Jeff Hays of Carroll College (Mont.), Adrian Jackson of Mountain State University (W.Va.), Ivan Jenkins of Georgetown College (Ky.), Carlos Hurt of Robert Morris College (Ill.), Daniel Rose of Biola University (Calif.) and Jarred Merrill of Oklahoma Christian University.

*Release provided by NAIA.org