College of Idaho extends winning streak, punches ticket to NAIA national championship

Darin Oswald/Idaho Statesman

The College of Idaho men’s basketball team punched its ticket to the NAIA national championship on Friday.

The top-seeded Yotes extended their winning streak to 35 games and held off No. 7 Ottawa University (Arizona) 73-72 in the NAIA semifinals Friday in Kansas City, Missouri.

College of Idaho (35-1) will face Indiana Tech in the national championship game on Saturday (6 p.m. MT, ESPN3). Indiana Tech (32-4) knocked off Georgetown (Kentucky) in Friday’s other semifinal.

“This group has done it the right way since the first day,” College of Idaho head coach Colby Blaine said after the game. “They deserve a chance to play for that national championship, and they have it tomorrow.”

The Yotes ran away with a lot of blowout wins this season, but that wasn’t the case on Friday. College of Idaho led, 36-21, at halftime, but the Spirit (25-10) came storming back and out scored the Yotes, 51-37, in the second half.

Ottawa cut the lead to 71-70 with 5 seconds to play, but College of Idaho’s leading scorer, Charles Elzie, hit two crucial free throws to give the Yotes just enough of a cushion to hold on for the win. The Spirit hit a layup to pull within one as time expired.

“We tell the guys all the time that all you need is one point,” Blaine said. “We’ve had the luxury of 10 and 20-point wins, but tonight it came true. We just needed one.”

Elzie led the Yotes with 21 points, while Drew Wyman added 11 points and five rebounds and Samaje Morgan came off the bench to score 12 points.