KANSAS CITY — Dom Robinson didn’t know Saturday would be his final game in a Montana Western uniform, but the sensational point guard capped his career with another electric performance.
Robinson had 26 points, seven assists and four rebounds, but couldn’t help the Bulldogs overcome a slow first half, as Montana Western fell 86-82 against Graceland (Iowa) in the NAIA national tournament quarterfinals.
Western fell into a quick 5-0 deficit in the opening minutes of Saturday’s game, then watched the Yellowjackets race to a 19-4 run midway through the first half, taking a 24-8 lead before the Bulldogs could catch their footing. Western made only three field goals during the first 8:18, before Marcus Payne broke the scouring drought with a shot in the paint. A Robinson 3-pointer cut the Graceland lead to 26-16 with 8:39 remaining in the opening half, then field goals from Brandon Jones and Kooper Kidgell brought the Bulldogs to within 26-20.
The Yellowjackets outscored Western 17-7 in the final seven minutes, taking a 43-27 lead into the second half.
Steve Keller’s club was in familiar territory, having its back against the wall in the national tournament, and rallied once more on Saturday evening. Western sliced the deficit to seven points after a pair of Zaccheus Darko-Kelly 3s, then got within 47-42 moments later on a second chance field goal from Jones.
The teams traded points until the 8:22 mark, when Western sparked another run. Darko-Kelly and Robinson hit consecutive 3-pointers to climb to within four, before Jones hit from downtown minutes later to make the score 66-65 in favor of the Yellowjackets. Robinson’s basket in the lane gave Western its first lead with 6:05 to play, capping a 13-2 run for the Bulldogs.
But the lead lasted only 19 seconds, as Will Nelson hit a 3 on the other end, giving the Yellowjackets a 69-67 advantage. Graceland never trailed again, though Western got within at least two points on seven different occasions in the final minutes.
Keller’s team finished with a program-record 27 wins this season, advancing to the round of eight in the national tournament, one showing better than last year’s club. Darko-Kelly finished with 20 points, but was only 5-20 from the field in the loss. Jones had 18 points and 14 rebounds for the Bulldogs.
Robinson ended a fantastic Montana Western career and is one of three seniors on the Bulldogs’ roster – joining Livingston’s Marcus Payne and California native Warren Helligar.