Amherst beats Mary Hardin-Baylor for D-3 title

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ATLANTA (AP) - At the beginning of the season, Amherst coach David Hixon passed out a form that his players were supposed to fill out, with questions meant to make them think about who they were deep down inside.

Soul-searching questions, such as “What’s your biggest fear?”

When senior guard Willy Workman returned the form, Hixon could only laugh. His answer: “The guy at the factory will get my size wrong for my championship ring.”

Now Workman will get to confront that big fear.

He had 14 points and 10 rebounds on Sunday, and the Lord Jeffs used balanced scoring from across their deep and talented lineup to beat Mary Hardin-Baylor 87-80 and win the Division III national championship.

“There were a lot of people here,” Workman said, “people chanting this way and that way, but we knew the hoop was 10 feet tall, the free-throw line 15 feet, and we had each other.”

Allen Williamson scored 18 points, and Connor Green and national player of the year Aaron Toomey added 16 each, helping the Lord Jeffs (30-2) push their season-ending winning streak to a school-record 24 games, and match the Amherst record for victories in a season.

It was the Massachusetts school’s third trip to the title game. It won the title in 2007.

“It’s hard right now to even put into words,” Hixon said, “and I’ve been through this once before. It’s really hard, where this team came from and where it ended up.”

Thomas Orr had 24 points and 11 rebounds for Mary Hardin-Baylor (27-6), which has never won an NCAA team championship in any sport. Brian Todd added 17 points and James Allen had 15.

“We didn’t come here to just enjoy the festivities,” Orr said, “we came here to win a game, and we didn’t do that. It’s a good trip, but the ultimate goal wasn’t succeeded.”

The Division III title game is usually played in Salem, Va., but it was moved to Philips Arena this season as part of the NCAA’s 75th anniversary of March Madness.

The Division II title game was also being played just a short walk from the Georgia Dome, the site of Monday night’s Division I championship game between Louisville and Michigan.

“If we don’t make this is permanent thing, I think we’re doing a disservice, and slighting our student-athletes,” Mary Hardin-Baylor coach Ken DeWeese said. “It’s something each team should aspire to get to, regardless of where the Final Four is.”

The Lord Jeffs never trailed in the first half, getting easy jump shots with superior ball movement and scoring the first 10 points. They kept hitting from around the perimeter, too, and pushed their lead to 29-16 on a basket by Ben Pollack with about 10 minutes left.

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