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Eric Peterson, Published February 22 2014

Dragons need to overtime to win the No. 1 seed from the North Division

MOORHEAD – A Tyler Vaughan 3-point play Saturday ended a Minnesota State Moorhead conference title drought that lasted three decades.

Vaughan’s clutch basket and free throw with 23 seconds to play in overtime lifted the Dragons to a dramatic 95-94 victory against the University of Mary in Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference men’s basketball on senior night at Alex Nemzek Fieldhouse.

“I’m really proud of him,” Dragons head coach Chad Walthall said of Vaughan. “He’s one of those guys that wants the big shot. That’s his mindset.”

The Dragons (19-7, 15-7) earned a piece of the North Division championship, sharing the crown with St. Cloud State and Bemidji State. St. Cloud State scored a 92-60 victory against Bemidji State on Saturday to help force a three-way tie for the North title. Based on the tiebreaker, MSUM is the No. 1 seed from the North for the NSIC tournament, which starts Wednesday.

The Dragons are set to host Concordia-St. Paul. Before Saturday, MSUM hadn’t won a conference championship since 1981-82.

“It was not only a win for our team, but a win for the community and all the fans that have supported us,” said Dragons senior Tarell Clark, who had 15 points and nine rebounds.

The Marauders took a 94-92 lead after senior Marc Musungayi sank a free throw with 36 seconds to play in overtime. That set the stage for Vaughan.

On the ensuing possession, Vaughan drove to the basket from the top of the key, getting fouled as he kissed a layup in off the glass. The 6-foot-1 sophomore guard swished the foul shot to give the Dragons a 95-94 lead with 23 seconds to play.

“I wanted the ball in that situation and I knew I could get around him,” said Vaughan, who finished with a career-high 26 points.

Mary had a final chance for victory, putting the ball in the hands of junior Chris Mason, who was red hot in the second half and overtime. Mason scored 26 of his game-high 29 points after halftime. Mason pulled up for a floating 12-footer in the final seconds. His shot appeared to go half way into the cylinder before rimming out. Clark grabbed the rebound as time expired.

“It was in the hoop actually and it just popped out,” Clark said. “I guess the basketball gods were with us tonight. I’m thankful for that.”

The Dragons led by as many as 12 points in the second half before Mary rallied to force overtime. The Marauders didn’t take their first lead after halftime until the overtime period. Mary shot 62 percent (21 of 34) from the field in the second half and overtime. The Marauders shot 80 percent (4 of 5) from the field in overtime. Mason’s final shot was his team’s lone miss in the extra session.

“I almost feel like we were ahead and the clock ran out,” Walthall said. “We couldn’t stop those guys. They were just shooting at a remarkable rate.”

After the game the MSUM players huddled in front of their bench and jumped up and down in jubilation.

“I’m so happy for our guys because as an athlete you get only so many opportunities,” Walthall said.

“That is what we’ve been working for all year,” Vaughan added. “Monday at practice we have to forget about all this. A new season starts on Monday.”

MARY (7-20, 5-17 NSIC): Johnson 0-0 0-0 0, Decoste 1-2 0-0 2, Jaspers 4-10 0-0 8, Musungayi 5-9 7-9 17, Mason 11-17 2-3 29, Henry 5-9 2-2 16, Jefferson 5-6 5-7 15, Scott 2-3 0-0 5, Tyler 0-1 0-0 0, Lindquist 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 34-58 16-21 94.

MSUM (19-7, 15-7): Clark 5-11 5-8 15, Williams 1-5 1-4 3, Wood 4-8 0-0 9, Vaughan 8-14 9-11 26, Filipek 1-5 2-2 4, Songolo 3-5 2-2 11, Lien 4-9 0-0 11, Sevlie 6-7 3-4 16. Totals 32-64 22-31 95.

Half: MSUM 39, Mary 33. 3-point goals: Mary 10-20 (Jaspers 0-1, Mason 5-8, Henry 4-8, Scott 1-2, Tyler 0-1), MSUM 9-22 (Clark 0-1, Williams 0-2, Wood 1-2, Vaughan 1-5, Filipek 0-1, Songolo 3-4, Lien 3-5, Sevlie 1-2). Total fouls: Mary 25, MSUM 16. Fouled out: Henry, Sevlie. Rebounds: Mary 28 (three players with 6), MSUM 33 (Clark 9). Assists: Mary 12 (Jaspers 4), MSUM 13 (three players with 3). Steals: Mary 3 (three players with 1), MSUM 7 (Williams 2, Vaughan 2). sTurnovers: Mary 12 (Jaspers 3), MSUM 8 (Wood 3). A-1,341.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513.

Peterson’s blog can be found

at peterson.areavoices.com