University of Campbellsville-Harrodsburg men’s basketball coach Austin Sparrow had a feeling his team was ready to play their best brand of basketball when the time was right.

He wasn’t wrong. At least not Thursday night.

Using his speed and size to his advantage for the vast majority of the night, second-seeded Campbellsville (Ky.) shot nearly 50 percent from the floor and scored 14 different players en route to a convincing win. 91-67 against the seventh seed. Ozark Christian College in the first round of the NCCAA Division II Men’s Basketball Championship at the OCC Multipurpose Building.

The Pioneers — leading by as much as 31 points and holding a double-digit advantage the entire second half — improved to 21-9 this season and will face third-seeded Manhattan (Kan.) Christian College, winner 81 -73 against sixth-seeded Bob Jones University in the semifinals at 8 p.m. Friday.

“We wanted to let our guys play free and play in space tonight – our best brand in basketball – and I thought we did that,” Sparrow said. “For us, you’re never going to get fired for having a bad shot. You’ll only be taken out if you don’t have defensive intensity and aren’t playing well on that side. For the most part, we were good at both ends of the floor tonight.

The OCC benefited from a record 26 points from senior guard Tyler Alarid, but the team was ultimately limited to 34.8% shooting from the ground as well as 28.6% shooting from long range.

The Ambassadors were also outshot 53-28 and committed 19 turnovers that led to 27 points in Campbellsville.

“They’re a very solid team,” OCC coach Chris Lahm said of Campbellsville. “Their speed gave us a hard time. We didn’t handle the ball very well tonight either. We didn’t bounce back well either. … Tyler Alarid, he’s a gamer and he came out ready to play. We just needed more guys to go with it.

OCC (18-18) takes on Bob Jones at noon Friday, needing a win to keep his season alive. A win would advance the Ambassadors to the fifth-place game at 11 a.m. Saturday.

“You have to be ready to play tomorrow,” Lahm said. “We can extend our season or we can play and go home tomorrow.”

Both teams struggled to find points early, but the Pioneers finally found their attacking rhythm midway through the first half to build their first double-digit lead.

Back-to-back triples from Mason Blair put Campbellsville up 20-12 with 10:55 left in the half.

About 20 seconds later, Antoine Darby drove the baseline and drew a foul on a made lay-up. Darby’s giveaway that followed saw the Pioneers up 11 points with 10:28 to halftime.

“We had been out for about 11 or 10 days, so we were a little rusty at first,” Sparrow said. “There was also the trip and everything for us. But we were able to start once we saw a few knocks fall.

Alarid did everything in his power to keep the ambassadors in the ball game. At one point, the senior guard had scored 12 straight points for the OCC, the last two coming on a jumper just inside the 3-point line to cut Campbellsville’s lead to 34-19 with 5: 46 remaining until intermission.

The Pioneers, however, continued to stay hot offensively and had their biggest first-half lead, 44-20, after Kereion Douglas capped a 7-0 run with a right wing triple.

But the Ambassadors went on a necessary run from there, closing the final 3:10 of the half on a 10-3 push to take a 47-30 deficit in the locker room. Dylan Hidalgo scored six points in the OCC race with a pair of triples.

Alarid had 16 points in the first half as Ozark Christian was limited to 33.3% shooting from the floor. Campbell shot 51.5 percent from the floor and 60 percent from 3-point range and three players scored nine or more points in the first 20 minutes.

The Ambassadors needed some good stuff early in the second half to give themselves a fighting chance. But despite OCC opening the half with an old-school three-pointer from Alarid, Campbell responded quickly with 10 straight points to push their lead to 57-33 with 16:36 remaining. .

OCC didn’t come within 20 points of Campbellsville the rest of the way.

The Pioneers scored three players in double figures. Darby led the way with 13 points while Douglas and Tyron Duncan added 12 and 10 points respectively. Five other Campbellsville players scored at least seven points.

“I think our guys have been through a lot this season,” Sparrow said. “It’s the longest season we’ve ever had. Living this experience really does them good. Offensively, we just want to do what we do. We’ve talked all season about not changing for every opponent, but about finding our identity and sticking to it.

Alarid scored his 26 points on 8-of-18 shooting from the floor, 2-of-4 shooting from 3-point range and 8-of-9 shooting from the foul line. Aason Cross added eight points for OCC, and Josiah Beckenhauer and Caleb Brown added seven points each.

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