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Rocky's best ever saved his best for last
Rocky's Devin Uskoski stands with tournament officials after being presented with the Chuck Taylor Tournament MVP award.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - No way was Devin Uskoski about to take all the credit.

Question after question came his way in the postgame press conference after Rocky Mountain College's 77-61 pounding of Columbia (Mo.) in Tuesday's NAIA championship, and each answer sounded something like this:

"We just have a great team. It was a team effort," he said.

But even Uskoski - who was wearing a freshly cut net around his neck - couldn't hide from the facts. After averaging 16 points and 14 rebounds in the NAIA tournament, Uskoski saved his best game for his last as a Battlin' Bear with a 24-point, 20-rebound effort. It was his 70th career double-double.

"This might have been my best game," Uskoski said. "It just hasn't sunk in yet. This is so amazing."

The five-year senior from Brush Prarie, Wash., captured the tournament's Most Valuable Player award for his performance in five games at Municipal Auditorium.

For the coaches who face Uskoski, the award was all-too deserved.

"We just had no answer for him," Columbia coach Bob Burchard said.

"He's unstoppable on the boards," Freed-Hardeman coach Jason Shelton said after Uskoski put up 14 points and pulled down 13 rebounds in the first round.

"All I can say is 'wow,' " said Concordia coach Ken Ammann, who watched Uskoski dismantle his team with 20 points and 16 rebounds.

In each of Rocky's five games, Uskoski made play that ignited his team emotionally. Tuesday night, Uskoski pulled off the traditional three-point play after getting fouled going to the rim. His free throw put the Bears up 10-3, but more important, it gave his team the confidence to grab a 45-24 lead by halftime. It was Uskoski's first of two and-one plays in the first half.

"That play was huge," said Rocky coach Bill Dreikosen. "And he's been doing stuff like that all season for us."

The Bears' championship - the school's first in basketball - capped a career that will no doubt leave Uskoski regarded as the greatest player in team history. He leaves RMC as the school's all-time leader in points (2,047) and rebounds (1,304).

"This is a very special young man," Dreikosen said about Uskoski. "I knew, with him being a senior, that this was going to be a special year. I certainly didn't know it was going to be this special.

"He has got us through this tournament. He's the reason our guys played the way they did. I'm so happy to see him go out this way."

Uskoski, a double-major at Rocky Mountain with a 3.6 grade-point average, summed up his college basketball career by calling his decision to play in Billings "one of the best things I've done."

"The whole thing has been unbelievable," he said. "I kind of came here by accident. I went to Rocky to practice and I didn't think I'd be back, but it ended up being a great decision. There has been such a family feel here."

Still, amid the accolades and celebratory confetti stuck to the back of his No. 32 jersey, Uskoski - much like he does in the post - wasn't about to budge from deflecting the credit.

"The MVP is pretty special," Uskoski said. "But there were other guys on the team who deserved it just as much as me.

"This was a total team effort."

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