The final tip off: Bakersfield and Central Michigan

The Great Alaska Shootout’s final championship game on Nov. 25 saw the CSU Bakersfield Roadrunners take on the Central Michigan Chippewas.

Central Michigan was playing in their second Shootout, having placed fourth in the 2011 tournament after dismantling Dartmouth in their final game. Bakersfield had not been to the Shootout prior to this year.

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Luke Meyer of Central Michigan and Moataz Aly of CSU Bakersfield battle for the first possession of the championship game of the GCI Great Alaska Shootout on Nov. 25 at the Alaska Airlines Center. Photo credit: Shayne Nuesca

Central Michigan beat Sam Houston State 71-60 in the first round and came out on top in their semifinal game against Cal Poly, 56-53 on their way to Saturday’s finale.

Bakersfield held UAA to a Shootout record-tying 39 points in their opening game and followed that up with their dramatic finish over Idaho in the semifinal game, 64-62 on their way to the championship game.

The first half saw both teams light it up from the field, as they both shot over 50 percent and an identical 5 of 13 from long range.

Luke Meyer, the Chippewa center, started things off with a dunk off a feed from Cecil Williams. The Roadrunner’s center, Moataz Aly, had his own impressive dunk as he fought through traffic early in the half.

The lanky centers were well matched, but Meyer’s ability to step outside ultimately gave him the advantage. Meyer ended the night with 14 points, hitting two shots from beyond the arc as he cemented his spot on the All-Tournament Team. Aly ended his night with 7 points, 1 rebound and 5 turnovers.

Rickey Holden’s layup put the Roadrunners up 16-12, and forced Central Michigan’s Coach Keno Davis to call a timeout with 12:24 to go in the first half.

The timeout didn’t stop the Runner’s momentum. Damiyne Durham, Bakersfield’s sixth man gunner, splashed in a deep 3-point shot to push the lead to seven.

Durham had struggled from deep throughout the tournament, shooting a combined 3 for 14 in the previous two games. He found his stroke, going 6 for 12 from long range and finishing the night with 24 points.

After Holden and Durham hit back-to-back 3s, the Chippewas turned things on. Meyer and Matt Beachler hit their own 3-pointers, and Beachler added a layup to give them the lead late in the first half.

Gavin Peppers added two more on a drive to the hoop that gave Central Michigan a 3 point lead at halftime, 39-36.

After being held without a field goal in the first half, Chippewa point guard Shawn Roundtree came alive in the second, opening the half with a shot from deep.

Williams pushed the lead to 12 with a basket, just under the 15-minute mark, but the Roadrunners weren’t about to let the game slip away.

Shon Briggs found Justin Davis, reminiscent of their win the night before, to cut the lead to single digits. After a Justin Davis steal, Durham knocked in his fourth 3-pointer of the night to bring the Runners within five.

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Central Michigan’s Shawn Roundtree moves around CSU Bakersfield’s junior guard Ricky Holden at the final GCI Great Alaska Shootout game on Nov. 25. Roundtree took home Player of the Game and the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player honors. Photo credit: Shayne Nuesca

Durham and the Chippewa’s David DiLeo traded 3s, as both teams kept fighting. Durham was able to cut the lead to 2, 62-60, with 9:40 to play in the game.

After Meyer slammed in a Roundtree missed triple, Briggs hit a big pair of free throws to again pull within two. On the Roadrunner’s next possession, Durham hit another shot from beyond the arc to give them the lead, 70-69 with about 3:30 left in the game.

With the game tied, Holden fouled Roundtree on a 3-pointer. Roundtree went 2 for 3 at the line, taking back the lead for the Chippewas. After DiLeo split a pair at the line, Central Michigan had a 3-point lead with 22 seconds to play.

Justin Davis missed a shot that would have tied it, and Roundtree was fouled after securing the rebound with six seconds remaining.

At the line, Roundtree had the opportunity to pad the lead for Central Michigan, but he missed both shots and gave the Roadrunners a chance.

Brent Wrapp, the Bakersfield point guard who had 9 assists and no turnovers to this point, secured the rebound and ran the floor. He found Durham just off the 3-point mark. Durham heaved a 3-point shot that just grazed the net and air-balled out of bounds as time expired, and Central Michigan won, 75-72.

Roundtree, despite struggling at the line in crunch-time, finished the night with 15 points and 6 assists, taking home Player of the Game and the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player honors.

“We didn’t execute the play as well as I would have liked,” Bakersfield’s coach Rod Barnes said, in regards to the final shot. “The way they tried to push us down the floor kind of caused a little confusion… But the play was called for [Durham] to get the shot.”

With the conclusion of the 12 day road trip, Barnes seemed exhausted, but the aura of playing in the final championship of the final Shootout was not wasted on the coach.

“Just to be in the championship is a big honor for us. Obviously, we would’ve liked to take first place back home, but just a lot of memories [in this tournament]. A lot of guys have played here, a lot of coaches have coached in this tournament,” Barnes said.

Central Michigan’s Coach Keno Davis echoed these sentiments, having traveled with his dad as an eighth grader to the Shootout when his father coached Iowa to the 1986 Shootout championship.

“It means a lot,” Keno Davis said. “It’s such a historic tournament. To just be a part of it, it’s something our players, our fans; they’re going to remember… To be in those record books, and be one of those trivia questions; to be on the right end of a trivia question… we’ll enjoy it for a long time.”

Roundtree said that the tournament will help his team as they begin the brunt of their season.

“A lot of guys had a chance to look themselves in the mirror and see their strengths and their weaknesses,” Roundtree said. “We have a lot of things to work on, too, but this is a great win and we’re going to celebrate this one, and once we get back [home], we’re going to get right back to work.”