SALEM, Va.—Senior Joey Flannery (Acton, Mass.) scored a game-high 23 points and blocked sophomore Nolan Ebel's (Denver, Colo.) driving layup with 2.9 seconds left as third-ranked Babson College defeated Augustana College (Ill.), 79-78, to win its first NCAA Division III Men's Basketball National Championship on Saturday night at the Salem Civic Center.
With the victory, Babson finishes at 31-2 overall and claims the College's first national championship since men's ice hockey in 1984. Augustana, which closed the year at 24-9, fell in the Division III title game for the second time in three years.
Flannery added seven assists and six rebounds, while senior Isaiah Nelsen (North Andover, Mass.) scored 18 points and pulled down six boards for the Beavers. Junior Nick Comenale (New York Mills, N.Y.) added 16 points and three assists and classmate Chris Lowry (Union, Conn.) chipped in with seven of his eight points in the second half.
Ebel finished with 20 points, seven rebounds and five assists for the Vikings, who trailed by eight with 3:28 to go. Senior Jacob Johnston (Cordova, Ill.) scored 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting and sophomore Chrishawn Orange (Algonquin, Ill.) chipped in with 14.
The Green and White scored eight early points in transition, but Augustana ripped off a 17-5 run to take its biggest lead of the night at 26-16 on a three-pointer by junior Dylan Sortillo (Bettendorf, Iowa) with 9:56 to go in the half. The edge didn't last long though, as the Beavers held the Vikings to just 1-of-12 shooting to close the stanza and countered with a 25-5 spurt to take a 10-point halftime advantage.
Flannery scored 10 points, Comenale had eight and senior Matthew Droney (Canton, Mass.) chipped in with five points during the run, which gave Babson a 41-31 cushion heading into the locker room. The Green and White extended the margin to as many as 12 on the first possession of the second half, but Augustana rallied to close within 56-52 after back-to-back hoops by Johnston with 10:35 to play.
The Vikings closed within four again just over a minute later, but the Beavers scored on each of their next six possessions, which included five points from Nelsen and a layup by Comenale to stretch the margin back to 71-61 with 6:17 left. Ebel again trimmed the Augustana deficit to four with 2:28 remaining, and Johnston hit a deep triple following a missed free throw by Babson to get within 79-78 with 10 seconds to go.
Flannery was fouled and missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with seven seconds left, but raced back and pinned Ebel's potential game-winning attempt off the glass to preserve the Green and White's first title.
The Beavers shot 48.4 percent from the floor and outscored the Vikings 40-26 in the paint.
Augustana shot 55.2 percent in the second half and 46.6 percent for the game, while finishing with a 35-30 edge on the glass.
• The Babson senior class of Flannery, Nelsen, Droney, Charlie Rice (Barnstable, Mass.), David Stauffer (York, Pa.) and Sam Bohmiller (Franklin, Mass.) finishes their careers with 103 victories, which is the most in program history.
• Flannery finished his career with 2,620 points, which is good for eighth in Division III history. He also scored 167 points in six NCAA Tournament games.
• The Beavers have now won 38 straight Saturday games—a streak that stretches back to the beginning of the 2014-15 campaign.
• Babson is the first New England school from outside the NESCAC to win the Division III men's basketball championship.
• Saturday's victory is the 12th in the NCAA Tournament over the last three years for the Beavers.
• Babson closes the season at 5-2 in games decided by five points or less and 26-0 when leading with five minutes to go in regulation.
• Flannery was selected as the Tournament Most Outstanding Player, while Nelsen was named to the All-Tournament team.