ULACD past Ambassadors in ACCA championship
By Jared Porter

Every time Ozark Christian College made a run, it seemed like University of Los Angeles College of Divinity’s Jerron Wilbut had a response.

Perhaps his most pivotal moment of the night came in the second half after the Ambassadors put together an 8-0 run to tie the game. As an amped OCC student section chanted “defense” with gusto from the sideline, the senior guard calmly dribbled the ball up the floor, stopped at the top of the 3-point line and drained a contested triple to give his team the lead once again with 9:59 remaining.

And just like that, all of OCC’s momentum was gone.

Wilbut finished with a game-high 31 points, with nine crucial ones coming in the final 10 minutes, as fourth-seeded ULACD held off sixth-seeded OCC for a 97-89 victory in the ACCA National Tournament championship game on Saturday night at the OCC Multipurpose Building.

“I just took what they were giving to me,” Wilbut said. “I can’t do it without my teammates. I believe I’m very talented, but I’m nothing without my team. I’m just happy that we came out with a plan to get me and my teammates in a good position. At the end of the day, this was a team win.”

“Eventually, Jerron is going to take over the game,” ULACD coach Michael Miller said. “You know, we finished 30-1 this year, and went into every game knowing that we would have the best player in the game. So, that always gives us a chance to win.”

ULACD claimed the tournament title after finishing third in the event in the previous two seasons.

“It’s our first time making it this far,” Miller said. “It felt great to get over the hump (Friday) in the semifinals, and obviously it feels even better to get this win. These guys have worked so, so hard to get to this point. They deserve this experience and I couldn’t be prouder.”

Divinity led for nearly 38 minutes even though OCC (15-17) refused to make things easy. The Ambassadors rallied from double-digit deficits twice to tie the game, and ULACD never led by more than 11 points.

“We’re finally coming into our own here late in the season,” OCC coach Chris Lahm said. “We’ve struggled this year, but we had a good meeting last week and made a couple lineup changes. We just seem to play better ever since we established Parker Sutton at the post. We have a little more inside game, which has freed some outside up for us.”

Sutton scored 18 points on 8 of 9 shooting from the floor and 2 of 2 shooting from the foul line. His jumper late in the second half sparked a mini 4-0 surge for OCC to cut the deficit to 95-89 with 26 seconds to go. But Wilbut then converted two free throws just four seconds later to open the ULACD lead back up to eight points.

“Every time we needed a stop, (Wilbut) was hitting a bucket,” Lahm said. “That was the difference. They’re a really good squad.”

ULACD had three scorers in double figures in Wilbut, Kelton Conway (22) and Troy Biglow (17). The team shot nearly 50 % from the floor (35 of 71) and 52 % from 3 (13 of 25).

Wilbut, a former Seton Hall recruit, also added eight rebounds and five assists to go along with his game-high scoring total.

OCC, shooting 49.3 % from the floor (29 of 66) and 39.1 % from 3 (9 of 23), was led in scoring by Deion Clark, who totaled 19 points. Miles Dressler (14 points), David Stinson (13), Nicholas Sarin (12) and Tyler Alarid (10) also scored in double figures.

“They had no quit in them,” Miller said of the Ambassadors. “They are so well-coached. What a privilege it is to coach against Chris Lahm. An amazing coach and really a great team.”