Story by Wade Steinlage, William Penn Sports Information
ORANGE CITY, Iowa -- The William Penn (Iowa) basketball team held on for an 86-82 win in a top-ten matchup versus #10 Northwestern (Iowa) at the Pizza Ranch Classic Saturday.
The victory helped #7 Statesmen (16-1) conclude a perfect 4-0 regular season against the Great Plains Athletic Conference, undoubtedly one of the NAIA's best conferences.
It did not come easily, though, despite a dominating 32-14 start midway through the first half. The navy and gold continued to power ahead of the Red Raiders (11-4) in the first 20 minutes, leading 47-35 at intermission.
The advantage remained sizeable until the final minutes when ten unanswered Red Raider points cut the margin to two points at 82-80 with 1:51 remaining.
Blake Walker (Jr., Rose Garden, Ga., Physical Education) then provided a huge lift with an offensive rebound and layup to push William Penn back ahead by four. Northwestern's Ben Miller answered right back, however, with two free throws to wrap up his game-best 25-point performance.
The visitors failed to score in their next two possessions, but survived two great opportunities by the Red Raiders to tie or take the lead. James Devlin (Sr., Tampa, Fla., Sociology) pulled down a defensive rebound and hit two free throws with nine seconds left to secure the win. The Statesmen never trailed nor were tied on the evening.
William Penn was outshot 46.8%-44.6%, but countered with a much more productive perimeter game (11-2 edge in three-pointers). The Statesmen also overcame deficits in rebounding (37-34) and free throws (22-9). Both squads committed 18 turnovers.
Brandon Beasley (Sr., Indianapolis, Ind., Physical Education) paced his team with 21 points, while Arman Rasul (Sr., Chicago, Ill., Sociology) was the most efficient shooter with 16 points on 8-of-11 shooting.
Devlin added 12 points, while Keith Steffeck (Sr., Marion, Iowa, Physical Education) and Kevin Fay (Jr., Hennepin, Ill., Education) also reached double figures with 11 points apiece. Ross Howe (Jr., State Center, Iowa, Undecided) finished with eight points.
Beasley, Rasul, and Blake Walker (Jr., Rose Garden, Ga., Physical Education) all managed six rebounds, while Devlin dished out six assists and matched Fay with two steals. Rasul and Steffeck recorded two blocks each.
"This is a special win," Head Coach John Henry said. "Ross, Kevin, and Lamonte Jenkins (Fr., Lake Charles, La., Business Management) were huge for us off the bench in this win."
"To have gone undefeated in four games against GPAC opponents is an amazing feat," Henry added. "It is the most respected conference in the NAIA. We feel great about what we have accomplished so far this year and are excited to enter league play next week."
Next: The Statesmen open Midwest Collegiate Conference action next Saturday by traveling to Davenport to face St. Ambrose at 3 p.m.