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For the 1985-86 Bisons, it all started each morning running before classes at 6 a.m. It would end in Kansas City with the team cutting down the nets after capturing the 1986 NAIA National Championship. It was only in 1982 that the first ever Lipscomb basketball team advanced to the National Tournament and the 1984-85 Bisons would make a return trip. But in 1986, the Bisons were able to return to Kansas City to take care of some unfinished business. The Bisons opened the 1985-86 season by ripping off 18-straight victories that established a new school record and were ranked the #1 team in the nation for the first time in Lipscomb history. Coach Don Meyer and the Bisons won their final 13 games capturing the Bison Classic, TCAC Tournament Championship, and the District 24 Championship. The Bisons led the nation in FG % for the second straight year and finished with a school record 35 wins.
To advance to the NAIA Tournament, the Bisons had to defeat Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tenn., an extremely tough place to play. In 1982 the Bisons lost their first game and in 1984-85 the Bisons were able to pick up one win before returning to Nashville. The Bisons entered the 1986 tournament as the 11th seed and were placed in the bracket where they would play every night virtually at the same time if they were fortunate enough to win.
Game 1: In the Bisons' opening round game, they faced Minnesota-Duluth and Don Meyer's good friend Dale Race. UMD entered the tournament with a 23-7 record. The Bisons were led in scoring by John Kimbrell with 16 while Anthony Jones and Chris Martello came off the bench to score 12 each. The Bisons found themselves up at halftime by only four points and were able to outscore UMD 30-28 in the second half to take the hard fought victory.
Game 2: With the win over UMD, Lipscomb advanced to a second round game against the tournament's local team Emporia State of Kansas. Emporia entered the tournament as the number six seed and had support of 9,000 screaming fans in the featured game of the night session. The Bisons were down at halftime 40-34, but would come out in the second half to silence the crowd and outscore Emporia 45-36 to win their second round game by a hear-pumping score of 79-76. Chris Martello once again came came off the bench to lead the Bisons with 23 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. Anthony Jones hit for 16 points, while John Kimbrell was held to 13 points. With the win over Emporia the Bisons started to believe they had a shot at winning the title as the 32 team field narrowed down to only eight teams.
Game 3: In the third round, the Bisons would meet Central Washington, another surprise team that had entered the tournament as the #14 seeded team. Centeral Washington had upset the tournament's #3 seed team and were hoping to knock off the Bisons and continue their Cinderella season. But by this time, the Bisons were clicking on all cylinders and defeated Central Washington 80-64. John Kimbrell bounced back with 24 points and once again Anthony Jones and Chris Martello came off the bench to hit for 16 points and 10 points respectively. For the Bisons, it was off to the final four.
Game 4: When the Bisons entered the semi-final game against St. Thomas Aquinas from New York City, they were facing that on paper, and in warm-ups, looked almost unbeatable. St. Thomas Aquinas had upended the tounament's #2 seeded team in the previous round and fans began talking that this would be the team to beat. But the Bisons had the game of all games and defeated St. Thomas Aquinas 102-91. Lipscomb would be the only team during the tournament to top the 100 point mark. In the win, the Bisons hit 20 of 21 free throws and out rebounded St. Thomas Aquinas 35-23. The Bisons had five players hit in double figures led by John Kimbrell's 23 points.
Game 5: In only the third tournament appearance in Lipscomb history, the Bisons found themselves in the championship game against unseeded Arkansas Monticello. After a slow first half, the Bisons found themselves down 27-22, but would outscore UAM 45-27 in the second half to take the championship 67-54. Once again John Kimbrell, who was voted the tournament's MVP, led the Bisons in scoring with 22 points. Kimbrell hit 10-11 free throws and also grabbed 11 rebounds. The Bisons ended the season with an overall record of 35-4 and Lipscomb's first ever National Championship in basketball. For Coach Don Meyer, the Bisons and city college basketball, life would never be the same.
1986 NAIA National Champions Lipscomb Bisons
12 Tony Clanton 5'10" G Florence, AL 14 Jerry Bridges 6'1" G Valdosta, GA 20 Greg Caudle 6'1" G Huntsville, AL 22 Anthony Jones 6'2" G Huntsville, AL 24 Bob Ford 6'2" F Huntsville, AL 30 Duwain Houston 6'2" F Savannah, GA 32 Richard Taylor 6'3" F Franklin, TN 40 Chris Martello 6'5" F Baker, FL 42 John Kimbrell 6'10" C Loretto, TN 44 Chris Bradshaw 6'6" F Norman, OK 52 Tom Kelsey 6'8" F Chattanooga, TN 54 Greg Glenn 6'3" F Arcadia, FL
Head Coach: Don Meyer
Assistant Coach: Ralph Turner
Redshirt Player: Dave Kimbrell
Student Assistants Coaches: Chris Farris, Chris Burnette, John Hudy, Kerry Risley
Athletic Trainer: Chris Snoddy