Mar 5, 2013 11:14 PM by Scott Breen - Q2 Sports
DILLON - Rocky Mountain College is headed back to the Men's NAIA National Basketball Tournament in Kansas City.
The Bears convincingly whipped UM-Western 68-52 for the Frontier Conference championship in Dillon Tuesday night, earning the league's automatic bid to this year's national tourney.
Malachi Roberts led Rocky offensively with 18 points as the Bears were never threatened after halftime.
It's the first time Rocky (21-12) has reached the national tournament since winning it all in 2009, and marks the fourth time they've been to the tournament under coach Bill Dreikosen.
4th-seeded Rocky opened its tournament run with a win over 5th-seeded Westminster in Utah, then beat top-seeded LC-State in Idaho before finishing off UM-Western in Dillon. Those three teams had previously enjoyed a combined 41-2 on their home courts.
The Bulldogs (22-9), playing without leading scorer Jake Owsley on Tuesday, showed their dependence on the center by finishing a dismal 6-32 from 3-point range.
Rocky exploded for a 15-2 run late in the first half to open a 36-28 intermission lead.
Don Parham was second in scoring with 15 for Rocky. Former Billings Central standout Joel Barndt finished with 11 points, including two critical shots after halftime to help Rocky keep the momentum.
The 32-team, single-elimination national tournament will be played March 13-19 at Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City. Unranked Rocky will find out on Wednesday just after 6 p.m. who its first-round opponent will be. Fans can tune in to the selection show at www.naia.org.