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Staging a coup at the Palace
Ron Reid
March 26, 1979
Although dreary and weary, Drury beat Henderson for the NAIA championship
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March 26, 1979

Staging A Coup At The Palace

Although dreary and weary, Drury beat Henderson for the NAIA championship

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In the final, however, Henderson's penchant for sloppy play and a 46-40 deficit in rebounds were too much to overcome, even though Drury was having an off night. In the first half, Henderson led for 10 minutes before buckets by Carter and Washington gave Drury a 34-30 lead at intermission that it never relinquished.

"I got a little bit nervous," Washington said, "but I remembered that we'd beaten them earlier this year in the Quincy Christmas tournament, so I just tried to keep the pressure on. We don't worry about the shots we miss. We just keep taking them."

Drury saved the NAIA seeding committee from total embarrassment. As usual, the seedings were as accurate as sheep-entrail readings. Cameron University of Lawton, Okla., which had a 36-3 record, maintained a tournament tradition by becoming the eighth straight No. 1 seed to fail to make the finals. Cameron was ousted by Southwest Texas 77-73, its only loss of the season to an NAIA opponent. The Aggies' other defeats had been to Jacksonville and New Mexico State, both NCAA qualifiers.

"It didn't hurt us to be top-seeded," said Cameron Coach Lonnie Nichols. "We just got beat by a better team." Indeed, more than half the seeded clubs had been knocked out of the tournament by the second round. Grand Canyon, Ariz., the NAIA defending champ and the No. 2 seed, was quickly sent home by Marymount, Kans. 79-74 in its opening contest.

Washington, Alexander and Avery joined Frazier on the All-Tournament team, along with James Patrick, who led Southwest Texas to a 101-88 rout of Midwestern in the consolation game. But in contrast to other years, when team performances were overshadowed by sensational individual play, parity was the watchword of the '79 tournament. This year's field was perhaps the most closely matched in NAIA history. It was a boon to the week's turnout of 65,681 fans and made for good show business.

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