Ike Agusi sank six free throws in the final minute Tuesday night and Queens toppled nationally top-ranked Lincoln Memorial 69-57 in the NCAA Division II Southeast Regional finals in Harrogate, Tenn.
The victory, Queens’ first in four meetings with Lincoln Memorial this season, sends the Royals (31-3) to the Elite Eight for the first time since 2003.
Coach Bart Lundy’s seventh-ranked team will join seven other regional champions March 20-24 in Sioux Falls, S.D.
The Railsplitters (33-2), playing on their home floor, were handed a dose of their own medicine by Queens in Tuesday’s championship game.
Lincoln Memorial was Division II’s best-shooting team (54 percent) and the top defensive club, holding opponents to 36 percent field-goal shooting. But Queens’ swarming defense held the Railsplitters to 38.6 percent from the floor – and 20 percent (3-of-15) from 3-point range.
Queens had leads slip away in two of its three losses earlier this season to Lincoln Memorial, but not this time. The Royals went in front near the midway point of the first half and led for the game’s final 32 minutes.
They built their lead to 10 points late in the first half, only to see the Railsplitters narrow the gap to 38-33 at intermission.
The second half was more of the same. Queens would build the lead to double digits, but Lincoln Memorial would rally. The Railsplitters got to within 53-51 with 8 minutes, 1 second remaining, but a superb defensive stand by Queens over the next five minutes turned the game around.
The Royals went on a 13-2 run, with Lewis Diankulu scoring a pair of baskets, Mike Davis hitting a 3-pointer, and Todd Withers blocking a pair of Lincoln Memorial shots. By the time Lincoln Memorial scored with 3:23 left, Queens led 63-53.
And from there, it was a matter of caring for the basketball and making foul shots – which Agusi did extremely well in the final 60 seconds.
3 who mattered
Lewis Diankulu (Queens): A 6-7 junior, Diankulu scored 12 points, grabbed a team-high seven rebounds and blocked three shots.
Ike Agusi (Queens): Agusi led the Royals with 16 points and was 6-of-6 from the foul line in the closing miute.
Emanuel Terry (Lincoln Memorial): Terry, the South Atlantic Conference Player of the Year, scored 13 points and grabbed 14 rebounds.
▪ Terry was 6-of-9 from the floor, but the rest of the Lincoln Memorial team shot 16-of-48 (33 percent).
▪ Todd Withers, who entered the game as Queens’ top scorer and rebounder, was held in check by Lincoln Memorial – as was the case in three of the teams’ four games this season. He finished with five points and four rebounds.
▪ Lincoln Memorial senior guard Trevon Shaw led Division II in 3-point field goals this season but was held to 1-of-6 from 3-point range Tuesday.
▪ Queens’ only other trip to the Elite Eight, in 2003, was the final season in Bart Lundy’s first stint as Royals’ coach. Lundy left for Division I but returned to Queens in 2013.
▪ Entering Tuesday’s game, the Royals had a 114-27 record during the past five seasons against all opposition other than Lincoln Memorial. But Queens was 2-13 against the Railsplitters.