KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Oklahoma Baptist University saw its upset bid of top-ranked Mountain State fall in and out of the rim Saturday in the NAIA quarterfinals, 87-84.
Robert Hart's last-ditch three-point try rattled inside the rim and bounced away, preserving a Cougar team who had just lost Player of the Year nominee Zach Moss to his fifth foul.
"It hurts to work that hard and come that close," said Bison coach Doug Tolin. "The play was actually designed to go to Leonard Mosley on a curl off a double screen, but they were kindf of close on him and Robert just stepped back and was wide open. It was a great look and I think the ball was at least halfway down and came back out."
It was the second time Mountain State eliminated the Bison in the quarterfinals in a close game at Kansas City's historic Municipal Auditorium. The Cougars ended OBU's 2003 season with a 108-106 overtime thriller.
"We just can't beat those guys," Tolin said. "They played like champions today and they beat a good team. I couldn't be more proud of our guys if they had won."
The scales tipped in Mountain State's favor in the first 93 seconds when OBU forward Jamal Forcheney had collected his second foul.
"That's another game where we didn't get to use our rotation the way we wanted to," said Tolin. "But that's part of the game."
Mountain State raced out to a strong early lead, reaching at 35-24 with 8:17 to play. The Bison chipped away and took the lead down to 36-32 on an 8-1 run fueled by four points by Jamel Coachman and a trey by Kyle Tolin.
The Cougars punched the lead back up to 49-37 on a three-pointer by Zach Gilliard, but the Bison scored the last eight points of the half on two three-pointers and a two-point basket, all by Mosley.
OBU scored the first four points of the second half with a bucket by Coachman and two free throws by Forcheney, but the next seven points came from MSU.
Trailing 59-52 with 16:49 left in the game, Coachman, Mosley and Hart sank baskets to cut the lead to one before Mosley completed the 9-0 run with a three-pointer, giving OBU its first lead, 61-59 with 14:24 left in the game.
The lead changed hands as Mersad Terzic hit a three for Mountain State and Adam Hawkins scored a basket for OBU, but the Bison built a 68-62 lead on a free throw and basket by Hart and a goal by Coachman.
The lead lasted only 73 seconds as Moss, who played the last six minutes with four fouls, converted a three-point play and Anthony Walker knocked down a three-pointer to knot the score at 68-68 with 10 minutes left in the game.
Moss made a free throw to give the lead back to Mountain State at the 9:35 mark, but OBU took the lead back on two baskets and a free throw by Forcheney., 73-69, with 7:33 to play.
There were two more ties and two more lead changes before the Cougars went up 85-83 on a floater by Kortaa Hall with 42 seconds left.
Hawkins hit one of two free throws to make it a one-point game and what looked to be a Bison break was wiped out by an official's whistle. Adrian Jackson drove the lane and missed a layup that appeared to be rebounded by Tolin, but Tolin, who had stepped a foot inside the base line as the shot was coming down, was ruled out of bounds.
Consequently, OBU had to foul Hall, who made two free throws to set up the final near-heroic play by Hart.
Moss led all scores with 26 points.
OBU got double-figure scoring from Coachman with 25, Mosley with 23, Hawkins with 12 and Hart with 11. Coachman and Mosley had 11 and 10 rebounds, respectively.
OBU loses seniors Kyle Tolin, Hawkins, Forcheney, Coachman, Richard Spears and Justin Roye. The loss ended the eight-year era in which Doug Tolin has coached his son, Kyle.
The Bison finish at 31-6.
MSU advances to play Georgetown (Ky.) in the tournament's semifinal round. The other national semifinal will feature defending national champion Concordia against the University of Mobile.