HUTCHINSON, Kansas — Connor Toolson scored a game-high 28 points and Salt Lake Community College completed a successful run to the title by beating Hutchinson College 74-64 on their home court in the 2016 NJCAA men's basketball national championship Saturday.
It's the Bruins' second national title and first since 2009.
"It's a little surreal feeling right now," SLCC head coach Todd Phillips said in a team news release. "Everyday after a win you are back to preparing for the next game, being up till two in the morning with your assistants. It's finally starting to sink in. I'm so excited for the kids and so grateful for the assistants who have sacrificed their time and have put so much effort into this team."
To capture the title, the Bruins beat Northeast Mississippi (77-64), Odessa (92-86), Southwest Tennessee (105-76) and Gillette College (83-47) before conquering Hutchinson for the crown.
"It was a long road with five games in six days but the boys were able to sustain their effort, sustain their defense and intensity and were able keep a consistent effort through out the tournament," Phillips said in the release. It was SLCC's first national title under Phillips; he was named coach of the tournament.
The 6-foot-4 Toolson, a former Lone Peak High star who is headed to Utah Valley University to play Division I ball, added four rebounds and two steals against the Blue Dragons and was named tournament MVP. He averaged 18 points per game during the national tourney while connecting on 55.9 percent of his shots (33 of 59) and made 19 3-pointers during the tournament, including five in the championship game.
Tyler Rawson had a double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds against Hutchinson and Tad Dufelmeier added six points and six assists. Both Rawson and Dufelmeier were named to the all-tournament team.
Bashir Ahmed paced Hutchinson with 22 points, four rebounds and two assists.
SLCC jumped out to a quick 8-0 lead, then extended that advantage to 42-27 at the break against the Blue Dragons. The Bruins pushed their lead to as many as 18 points in the second half before Hutchinson rallied, cutting the SLCC lead to four points in the final three minutes before the Bruins finished off the victory.
SLCC, which finished the season with 31-8 overall record and was also Region 18 champions, hit nine 3-pointers on the night. The Bruins held the Blue Dragons to a 35.5 percent shooting night from the field, including 9.1 percent (2-for-22) from 3-point land.
"Tonight the kids played consisted like they did all week," Phillips said in the release. "They were able to come out strong and dictated the tempo of the game. We were able to make big shots and big stops on defense. We were able to control the game like we have been able to do all week."