KANSAS CITY, Mo. – An outstanding season by Talladega came to a close in the NAIA National Championship with a loss to the Loyola (La.) Wolf Pack by a score of 71-56.
The Tornadoes, playing less than 24 hours after a nail-biting overtime victory over Thomas More, put up a valiant effort against Loyola, which finished the season 37-1.
The Tornadoes concluded the stellar season at 32-6. Four of the six losses were to the Wolf Pack.
Leading the way for head coach Chris Wright‘s experienced team (nine seniors and four juniors) was Darryl Baker‘s game-high 22 points. He hit eight-of-18 from the floor, including four-of-nine from downtown. Baker chipped in six boards. Davion Thomas added eight points. Kamron Brice contributed six markers, while Jervay Green had five points, six rebounds, and five assists. Camron Reesesnagged a team-best nine rebounds in the loss.
In the first half, Brice buried a three-point shot off a pass from Green, knotting the contest at 13-13. Trailing 18-13, Green found Thomas for a thunderous dunk with 10:16 to play. The Wolf Pack embarked on an 18-2 spurt to make it 36-17 with just 3:14 to go in the half. The Tornadoes battled back, slicing it to 15 at the half. Edwin Louis and Baker hit jumpers to make it a 36-21 game at the break.
Trailing 44-25, Wright’s team went on an 11-0 spurt, slicing the deficit to eight, 44-36. During the run, Baker nailed a three-point bucket. Moments later, Baker found the bottom of the net with another jumper. At the 14:05 mark, Baker continued his attack on the home team, taking a pass from Thomas and rattling home a three-point basket. Thomas’ three-pointer off a pass from Louis made it an eight-point game with 13:15 to play.
Behind 48-36, the Tornadoes continued to attack. Green found Baker for a shot from a distance. Down 50-39, Green found Markel Williams for another basket from deep, pulling the visitors within eight at 50-42. Baker’s three-point bucket helped Talladega pull within five at 50-45, but that was as close as the team would get.
Loyola stretched the margin to 14 at 61-47 with 5:20 to go. Wright’s team cut the deficit to 11, but the squad could not cut it to single digits.
For the game, Talladega connected on 19-of-53 from the floor (35.8 percent), including nine-of-27 from downtown (33.3 percent). The team distributed 11 assists, had four steals, and swatted three shots.
It marked the first time an HBCU program reached the NAIA Championship since West Virginia State did in 1987. The Yellow Jackets lost that game to Washburn 79-77.