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Orem, UT- The Utah Valley State men's basketball team ended its season in memorable fashion by winning the United Basketball League championship on Saturday, beating Texas-Pan American 66-57 on Senior Night.
"What a great thrill to win the United Basketball League championship," Utah Valley State coach Dick Hunsaker said. "What a terrific thing to play for. I just can't say enough good things about our team and the wonderful ride we have had this year."
The win gives Utah Valley a 22-7 record and a 9-1 mark in United Basketball League play. The 22-7 record is the best mark for an Independent since Notre Dame went 23-6 in 1985-86.
"What a tribute to the players," Hunsaker said. "Who would have thought that was a possibility. Very few times do you have a team that exceeds your expectations, but this team did. The great thing about tonight is the men on this team will be life long friends. This has been a special time and a special run for Utah Valley."
Ryan Toolson led Utah Valley with 26 points on 9 of 15 shooting from the field. He was also 4-for-4 from the free throw line. Toolson finished the season shooting 97 percent from the free throw line, which is the best mark in the nation and the second best percentage in NCAA history.
Saturday was the final game for seniors David Heck, Chris Bailey, Matt Peterson and Peter Brown. All four players and junior Jordan Brady started every game this year. Utah Valley is one of five teams in the country to have used the same starting lineup in every game this season.
"They all played inspired basketball," Hunsaker said. "I thought they all played well and hard. This was a tough game. I am so appreciative and thankful for what they have done for our program. They laid the foundation for teams in the future."
Heck was the other Wolverine player in double figures with 13 points. He also had four assists, two rebounds, one block and one steal.
Utah Valley shot 47 percent from the field and forced 15 Texas-Pan American turnovers.
The Broncs didn't make things easy for the Wolverines as they built a 13-7 lead seven minutes into the game. The Wolverines took the lead at 15-14 on a 3-pointer by Toolson with 7:34 left until halftime.
With the score tied at 23, Joe Walker scored on a put back at the buzzer to give Utah Valley a 25-23 lead at the break.
The Broncs took a 30-27 lead three minutes into the second half on a 3-pointer by Dexter Shankle. Heck countered with a 3-pointer of his own to tie the game at 30.
Toolson then capped off a 14-4 run with back-to-back 3-pointers to give Utah Valley a 44-34 lead with 11:56 left in the game.
UV extended its lead to 55-39 with 7:32 remaining. UTPA made a late run to get within seven with 31 seconds left in the game. But Toolson sealed the win with two free throws in the final seconds of the game