After battling through six ties and seven lead changes on Saturday afternoon in the Ralph Nolan Gymnasium, the battle for the outright HAAC Championship went to the No. 9-ranked Benedictine men as they earned a 68-65 win over No. 19 Evangel University.
For Benedictine (21-7, 14-4 HAAC) the win secured its first-ever HAAC Championship since joining the conference for the 1992-93 school year.
Benedictine took the lead for good with 45 seconds remaining and then held off several last-second attempts by Evangel (21-9, 12-6 HAAC) to hang on for the three-point win.
The Ravens connected on 4 of 8 over the games final 45 seconds while limiting the Crusaders to just one free throw to earn the win.
Evangel jumped out to as much as a nine-point lead on Benedictine before the Ravens went on a 15-6 run to pull the game to its first tie at 23 points with seven minutes and forty seconds left in the first half.
Benedictine took and brief lead only to have Evangel grab it back by five points before Benedictine closed the half outscoring the Crusaders 7-1 to take a 36-35 lead.
In the second half, the lead traded hands four times with Benedictine lead early by as much as six points before Evangel pulled ahead by five points.
Neither team was able to pull away setting up the Ravens final push to the win.
Evangel outshot Benedictine, converting on 41.1 percent to the Ravens 40.4 percent.
The Ravens connected on 12 of 19 from the charity stripe in the second half which helped them overcome just eight second-half field goals.
Zack Kleine scored a game-high 23 points while Kerry Tillery added 11 points for Evangel.
Benedictine held a decisive advantage off the bench, as they outscored Evangel 36-17 anchored by Harris Jr.
For Benedictine the win gives them the No. 1 seed in the HAAC Tournament beginning on Wednesday. The top seed also gives the Ravens one of the HAAC's three automatic bids to the 2014 Buffalo Funds-NAIA Div. I National Championship Tournament.
The trip to Kansas City, Mo., for the National Tournament marks the Ravens first trip to the tournament since last qualifying in 1970.