Georgetown College returns to the scene of the crime next week.
The Tigers (23-7) suffered through a late-season slump but still were awarded an at-large berth to the NAIA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament in Kansas City, Mo.
The 32-team event begins Wednesday and wraps up with the national championship game on Tuesday, March 21.
Georgetown, which has won two national championships, appeared to have number three in its pocket when Scott County graduate Trent Gilbert sank a three-pointer with 4.1 seconds left to give the Tigers a 99-98 lead in last year’s title game. But Malcolm Mann, the point guard for Mid-America Christian, broke the Tigers’ hearts when he raced the length of the court and tossed in a floater at the buzzer for a 100-99 overtime win.
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The Tigers opened the 2016-17 season on a mission to get back to Kansas City, winning their first eight games and 20 of their first 21. Since then, Georgetown has gone 3-6. The Tigers finished the regular season third in the Mid-South Conference and was defeated by Pikeville in the semifinals of the league tournament last weekend.
Still, Georgetown’s body of work was enough for the Tigers to secure a tournament-record 26th consecutive berth in the national tournament.
Georgetown opens play Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. EDT against Park University of Parkville, Mo. (21-7).
Six members of the Georgetown team took part in last year’s run at the title. Three others were on the team as redshirts. The six returnees are junior guard Gilbert, junior guard Darion Burns (Fleming County), sophomore guard Troy Steward (Fleming County), senior swingman Raymond Baldwin (Suitland, Md.), senior forward Edson Avila (Bronx, N.Y.) and sophomore forward Chris Coffey (Seneca). Steward is the team’s leading scorer at 16.5 points per game. Coffey is the top rebounder at 9.6. The redshirts were freshman guard Jacob Conway (Lincoln County), junior forward Devon Rowan (North Oldham) and freshman guard Eljay Cowherd (Bardstown). The Tigers also received major contributions this season from another Kentucky product. Former Hopkinsville standout Quan Poindexter, a 6-foot-5 junior forward, transferred to the Tigers from Southwest Illinois College and averages 14.6 points and 5.5 rebounds.
“This is probably the toughest national tournament, having to win five games in a span of seven days,” said Georgetown Coach Chris Briggs, who led the Tigers to the national title in 2013.
A live broadcast of Georgetown’s opening game will be available on the Georgetown College website.
Georgetown will be joined in Kansas City by two other teams from Kentucky.
Pikeville (26-7) opens play Thursday against Grand View University of Des Moines, Iowa (20-10) at 10 a.m. EDT. The Bears are making their fifth consecutive appearance.
Cumberlands (22-8) also opens Thursday, taking on Texas Wesleyan (24-7) at 5 p.m. EDT. The Patriots are making their fourth straight appearance and reached the quarterfinals last year.
Three Kentucky teams make women’s field
Kentucky will also be represented by three schools in the NAIA Division I Women’s Basketball Tournament.
Campbellsville, Lindsey Wilson and Pikeville all will be in Billings, Mont., for the 32-team national event next week.
Campbellsville (25-6) opens Wednesday against Talladega College of Alabama (22-8) at 3:45 p.m. EDT. Lindsey Wilson (30-2) also tips off Wednesday, taking on Martin Methodist College of Pulaski, Tenn. (21-10) at 10:30 a.m. EDT
The first game for Pikeville (21-10) is Thursday at 11 a.m. EDT against Lyon College of Batesville, Ark. (27-5).