Noah Keeton would rewrite the ending if he could, but he said the rest of the story turned out just fine.
The former Lincoln County star won more than 100 games and scored more than 1,000 points in four years at Northwood University in West Palm Beach, Fla.
He concluded his career by playing for a national championship last week, and that game didn’t go Keeton’s way. But he said that’s just about the only regret he has from four seasons of college basketball.
“It was hard getting beat and knowing that it would probably be my last game, but it’s been a good career for me,” Keeton said.
Keeton and his Northwood teammates made four straight trips to the NAIA Division II national tournament and made the final four in each of the last two years, and his coach said he played an important role for the Seahawks in all four of his collegiate seasons.
“He was a very important part of it throughout his four-year career,” Northwood coach Rollie Massimino said.
Keeton made a name for himself as well by displaying the same outside shooting prowess that served him well at Lincoln. He shot 36.9 percent from 3-point distance this season, going 50 for 138 after making 72 3-point shots as a junior, 50 as a sophomore and 38 as a freshman.
He ranked among the nation’s top 3-point shooters last year at 43.1 percent, and he said outside shooting was his calling card.
“I’m pretty much what I’ve always been. I can’t do that much else. I’m not that athletic,” he joked.
But Keeton said he is a much better shooter now than he was at Lincoln, and his coach said that isn’t the only area where he made great strides.
“He really learned how to guard a lot better. He was the typical Kentucky guard: There wasn’t a shot that he didn’t like, and that’s good,” Massimino said. “He was very confident in everything he did, especially his shooting prowess, and that’s what shooters are all about. He worked diligently on his shooting, but he also improved his defensive ability.
“He shut down two people that were prolific scorers in the tournament.”
Northwood (33-4) finished the season ranked No. 1 in the nation and was the No. 1 seed in the national tournament. The Seahawks won their first four tournament games in Branson, Mo., by 17, 8, 17 and 19 points before going cold in a 63-46 loss to Oregon Tech in the national championship.
“We went 1 for 19 on 3-pointers … and we pretty much lived and died as a 3-point team,” Keeton said.
The Seahawks had hit 34 of 74 3-point shots in their first four tournament games but couldn’t find the basket in the finals, when they shot just 30 percent overall.
“We were up 19-18 at halftime, and nobody shot the ball well,” Massimino added. “We just couldn’t hook up the way we had executed.”
Still, Keeton said the championship game was a tremendous experience.
“It was a great opportunity to get out there and play on national TV. It didn’t really end the way we wanted it to, but we still had a great season. We can’t look back and be disappointed,” said Keeton, whose experiences in his senior season also included exhibition games at Maryland and Fordham, the latter resulting in his first trip to New York.
Keeton did not score in the title game, but he averaged 7.6 points and 17.3 minutes in his senior season, scoring a season-high 24 points in a Jan. 21 game against Johnson & Wales. He started only eight games for Northwood, but he played a key role in the Seahawks’ seven-man rotation.