KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Zach Wrightsil scored 19 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, tournament MVP Myles Burns added 17 points and 17 rebounds, and Loyola (La.) beat Talladega (Ala.) 71-56 on Tuesday night for its first NAIA title since 1945.
Loyola (37-1), in its second NAIA championship game, won its fourth straight in the season series with Talladega — and stretched its overall winning streak to 21. The school’s only other championship — in any sport — was the 1944-45 team.
“I went into every single game this year, believing that I had the best group on the floor, and that they weren’t going to let us lose,” Loyola coach Stacy Hollowell said. “You can’t quantify a kids passion, and these kids have passion.”
Loyola led 36-21 at halftime as Talladega was just 7-of-30 shooting, including 2 of 16 from 3-point range. Wrightsil had 10 points and seven rebounds at the break. Talladega only averages nine turnovers a game, but had eight in the first half.
Talladega started making 3-pointers after halftime, including Darryl Baker’s fourth of the second half to get within 50-45. But Brandon Davis made his third 3-pointer, following an offensive rebound, to help Loyola rebuild a double-digit advantage, 55-45, it would not relinquish.
Davis finished with 13 points and Terry Smith Jr. added 11 for Loyola. Wrightsil was 8 of 12 from the floor and Burns grabbed 17 rebounds for the second game in the tournament.
Baker scored 22 points for Talladega (32-6), which was looking for its first title.
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