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FHU Lions Basketball makes historyLions competed in NAIA Men’s Basketball Championship

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On Tuesday, the Freed-Hardeman Lions took to the courts for a game they dreamed for, 2024 NAIA Men’s Basketball National Championship Presented by Ballogy. Thethe Freed-Hardeman Lions battled the Lions from Langston (Okla.) University for the NAIA crown.
Langston topped the defending national champions in their low-scoring 58-52 semifinal.
After seeing their season end in 2022-23 at the hands of the Grace (Ind.) College Lancers, the Freed-Hardeman University Lions found themselves in a top-seeded battled in the semifinal of the 2024 NAIA Men’s Basketball National Championship Presented by Ballogy. This time the Lions went 11-26 from long range and 17-21 from the free-throw line to defeat the Lancers 86-81 to advance to the national championship game.
After both the Lions (31-4) and the Lancers scored buckets on the fast break, back-to-back 3-pointers by Grace put the Lions down by six. Sam Powell continued his hot shooting by tallying a triple before Phil Horton made the score 10-9 in favor of Grace with 13-12 remaining in the first half. A 7-0 run by the Lancers was cut off when Powell sank a 3-pointer.
Consistently down by two possessions, a 6-0 run by the Lions had an exclamation mark from Ryley McClaran whose 3-pointer at 3:46 gave FHU their first lead at 31-30. After the Lancers (34-2) tallied a 3-pointer to reclaim the lead, Hunter Scurlock joined the 3-pointer club with a shot-clock-beating trey at 2:40 to put FHU back on top. The Lions added four more points before a Grace layup ended the first half with FHU holding a 38-35 lead.
Grace came into the second half with a 3-pointer to knot the game at 38 before the Lions scored seven unanswered points to take a 45-38 lead. Undeterred, the Lancers hit a free throw and back-to-back 3-pointers to even up the game at 45. Swapping leads over the next four possessions it was back-to-back threes from Phil Horton and Powell that ignited a 10-point run for the Lions with Geraldo Lane’s layup on the fast break giving FHU a 60-52 lead with 12:08 left in the semifinal.
The Lancers would not go quietly, with a 9-2 run to set a 64-64 score with 7:15 remaining in the game. Usually known for his inside play, Peyton Law showed off his range with a 3-pointer at 6:19 only to follow with two more down the stretch, pushing FHU’s lead to six in the last minute of play. FHU hit their free throws late, led by JJ Wheat’s six in the last 34 ticks, giving the Lions the 86-81 win and earning the right to play for a national championship.
The Lions were 49% from the floor including an 11-26 mark from long range. FHU forced 19 Lancer turnovers – including 14 steals – and turned those into 24 points. FHU’s bench was devastating to the Lancers, out-scoring Grace’s bench 42-19.
JJ Wheat led the Lions with 20 points, 10 of which were from the charity stripe. Peyton Law followed with a season-high 17-point performance including three 3-pointers. Ryley McClaran had 14 points while Sam Powell was 4-6 from deep to score 12. Hunter Scurlock wrapped up the double-digit scoring with 11. Scurlock led the Lions at the glass with eight rebounds.

By Dustin Semore
FHU Information Director

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