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Regular season Midwest Conference champion Monmouth put an exclamation point on their season with a 79-76 win over Ripon in the MWC Tournament championship game to earn their first NCAA berth since 1990.
Neither team could deliver the knockout punch until the Scots’ Will Jones and Justin Aluya combined to go 6-for-6 from the free throw line in the final 18 seconds. The Red Hawks had soared to a nine-point lead early in the game, before Monmouth began to heat up. Paul Engo III drained a 3-pointer with 1:04 left in the first half to give the Scots a 34-33 lead as Aluya followed with a pair of free throws and D.J. Swift connected on a three as the first half horn sounded to send the Scots to the locker room up 39-34.
Ripon retook the lead with 15:18 left in the game on a Tyler Semenas layup and inched ahead 46-43 on Trent Jones’ bucket inside. The teams traded the lead until two more Aluya free throws with 3:26 left gave the Scots the lead for good at 63-62.
Aluya finished with a game-high 25 points, making 16 of his 18 free throws to lead all scorers. Jones and Isaac Masters led Ripon with 17 each.
Monmouth’s 20th win this season tied the program record. The Scots will learn their first round NCAA opponent Monday morning. The selection show will be available on-line at 11:30 a.m. Central Time on NCAA.com.