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Gardner-Webb dancing for first time in school history

D. J. Laster scored a career-high 32 points to lift Gardner-Webb past Radford 76-65 in the championship game of the Big South tournament, earning the Runnin’ Bulldogs their first ever NCAA Tournament appearance.

Gardner-Webb, which has been playing at the Division I level since 2002-03 when it initially joined the Atlantic Sun conference, reached the Big South championship game for the first time in the school’s history after defeating High Point in the first round and upsetting top-seeded Campbell in the semifinals.

Gardner-Webb (23-11), which lost to Radford 75-58 at the Dedmon Center in their only meeting during the regular season, led 27-22 at halftime and used a 13-5 spurt to build a commanding 46-33 lead in the game’s final twenty minutes.

Radford, which went scoreless for more than eight minutes during the first half, threatened twice in the second half, but couldn’t get any closer than five points of the third-seeded Runnin’ Bulldogs down the stretch.

Laster averaged 13.1 points per game heading into today’s title game. Stepping up big time, the 6-6 senior forward from Pensacola connected on a blistering 14-17 from the field, including burying 2 of 3 from beyond the arc. He also pulled down six rebounds.

David Efianayi, Gardner-Webb’s leading scorer on the season, added 15 points, all in the game’s final 12 minutes and eighteen seconds.

Dropping to 22-11, the Highlanders were led by junior guard Donald Hicks, who scored 17 points.

Darcy G. Richardson is a historian and the author of more than a dozen books. His latest is Loyola's Improbable Ramblers: 55 Years in the Making, available now on Amazon.

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