Union College is bringing back a national championship to the Bluegrass state.
The Bulldogs, ranked No. 1 in NAIA Division II, held off a late rally by second-ranked Cornerstone (Mich.), 72-69, to win the title in Point Lookout, Mo.
Paul Stone led the way for Union (35-3) with 26 points and nine rebounds. He was 4-for-8 from three-point range.
“I was just playing with a lot of heart,” Stone said of his play, according to a news release by the school. “With these guys, we battle every day in practice. They took the time to make each other better, be competitive every day in practice. I just want to thank God for everything. We put the work in this summer, and it pays off. It really does pay off.”
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Former Henry Clay standout Gerrard Newby added 12 points, 10 rebounds and two assists, Mike Martin scored 17 and Tyrone Sherman had nine points and six assists.
“All of us seniors, we talked about this every day since we won the conference tournament,” Sherman said. “From that day forward, we talked about winning the national tournament, and I just wanted to do all I could to help my team to win.”
Jaylen Daniel, who starred in high school at Clark County contributed four points and two blocked shots.
Stone, who earned Most Outstanding Player honors, led Union in scoring during the tournament with 21.6 points per game.
“He’s a hard guy to guard,” Union Coach Kevin Burton said. “Smaller guys he can post up against, and bigger guys he can take outside and drive. And he’s a good enough shooter that he can stretch them out.”
Burton, a Nicholasville native who played at Jessamine County and Asbury, was named the NAIA Division II Coach of the Year.
The Bulldogs closed out the season winning their final 33 games.
“I don’t think the word streak was spoken for however long it’s been going on. It just hasn’t,” Burton said. “We haven’t talked about it. After we win a game, they know on the next day it’s time to focus on our next opponent.”
This was the first NAIA team national championship for Union in any sport.