Graceland wins NAIA championship with overtime buzzer-beater

Graceland’s Justin Harley, center, celebrates his game-winning overtime basket with Dalton Payton, left, Waseem Limbada, right, and other teammates in the NAIA men’s championship college basketball game Tuesday, March 20, 2018, in Kansas City, Mo. Graceland defeated LSU Alexandria 83-80. (AP Photo/Colin E. Braley)

The NCAA Tournament brings out dozens of upsets, buzzer-beating shots and Cinderella stories each season. It’s become an expectation each March.

That level of exciting March basketball, though, isn’t restricted to the “Big Dance.”

Graceland — a small university from Lamoni, Iowa — entered the NAIA Division I tournament as a No. 5-seed. On Monday, the Yellowjackets knocked off No. 1-seeded LSU Shreveport 87-80, thanks to a massive 20-4 run in the second half to earn them their first spot ever in the NAIA Championship game — the first school from their conference to do so.

Their dream March run continued on Tuesday night.

Graceland and LSU-Alexandria couldn’t settle things after 40 minutes in the title game Monday night at Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City, Missouri, and it was looking like just one overtime wasn’t going to be enough.

With time quickly running out in the extra period, the Yellowjackets were tied 80-80 with LSU-Alexandria as point guard LT Davis brought the ball up the court. After being stopped at the top of the key, David kicked to a wide-open Justin Harley, who buried a three-pointer as time expired in true March fashion.

Harley’s shot gave Graceland the 83-80 overtime win against LSU-Alexandria, handing the Yellowjackets their first ever National Championship. They finished out the season with a 29-10 record, only losing twice since Jan. 17.

“You saw a leader, an individual poised enough to draw defense to kick to a wide-open shooter,” Graceland coach Craig Doty said on ESPN3 after the game. “Justin didn’t have any time to think about it, and he nailed it.”

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