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SALEM, Va. (AP) — Joey Flannery had one last thing to accomplish in his college career, and with the final seconds ticking down and Augustana's Nolen Ebel threatening to take his national championship away, Flannery made one more play to make sure he could fill that final void
Last year's national Division III player of the year scored 23 points and soared to block Ebel's driving bank shot with less than 2 seconds remaining, preserving Babson's 79-78 victory and its first men's basketball national championship, on Saturday night.
"He'd been getting to the rim on the right side all day and I said I'm going to meet him at the rim," Flannery said of the block. The Beavers rebounded with 1.5 seconds left, and after Matthew Droney missed the front end of a 1-and-1, the Vikings called time out, setting up a full-court pass for a desperate heave. It was knocked away, preserving the title.
"Winning your last college game, it means the world to me. It means the world to our seniors," Flannery said.
Isaiah Nelsen added 18 points and Nick Comenale had 16 for the Beavers (31-2), who used a 25-3 run late in the final half to lead 41-31 at halftime, then held off a furious rally.
"That's not the first time he's run down a ball to save a game for us," Babson coach Stephen Brennan said of Flannery.
Viking coach Grey Giovanine had a different view, but the same sentiment.
"The national player of the year made a great play," he said. "That's what they do."
The Beavers, who reached the final by erasing a 45-20 deficit in Friday night's semifinals, had never played for the championship before, but two years ago came to Salem Civic Center for their first Final Four. They lost that game 68-48 to Augustana.
Ebel scored 20 points to lead the Vikings (24-9). Jacob Johnston added 15 points and Chrishawn Orange had 14.
"I thought I had a pretty good look," Ebel said.
Augustana had closed within four four times in the second half, but after Charlie Rice missed the front end of a 1-and-1 for Babson with 21.4 seconds to play, Jacob Johnston's 3-pointer made 79-78 with 10.8 seconds left and the Vikings called time out.
Flannery, an 84 percent free throw shooter, then also missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 8.8 seconds left.
"I'll always be thinking about that missed free throw, but luckily it didn't matter," he said.
Flannery, Rice and Comenale each played all 40 minutes for the Beavers, and Giovanine used nine players and his team played at a fast pace all game. He said that strategy has worked all season as his rotation included at least nine, but the setting foiled it just enough.
"I love being on TV, but the media timeouts really hurt because of our depth," he said.
Augustana: The Vikings are 0 for 3 in the championship game, having also lost in 1993 and 2015. They overcame a 17-2 deficit at the start in their 90-79 victory against Williams on Friday night.
Babson: Flannery finished his career with 2,620 points, including 47 in the two games at Salem Civic Center. That puts him eighth in Division III history.
The Beavers committed just four turnovers, and Augustana scored just one point off takeaways. ... During Babson's 25-3 run late in the frst half, the Vikings missed 13 of 14 shots. ... Nelsen made what appeared to be a play reminiscent of Larry Bird late in the game, rebounding a missed shot as he was falling out of bounds and shooting it over the backboard, where it bounced three times and fell, but it was disallowed.
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