by Mike Byker, Sports Information Director at Dordt College
POINT LOOKOUT, Mo. - (Box Score)— College of the Ozarks (Mo.) pulled off the biggest upset of day one at the NAIA Division II National Championship as they knocked off the No. 2 seed College of Idaho 88-84 Wednesday night in the first round of the event.
Ozarks built a 48-35 halftime lead with a surge in the final seven minutes. The Coyotes ramped up their defensive efforts in the second half and quickly cut the lead to under five points. The Cascade Collegiate Conference regular season champion never led in the second half, cutting the difference to two points late in the game before Ozarks nailed down the win.
Ozarks converted 60.8 percent of its field goals while making 31-51 shots and the Bobcats made 13-20 field goals in the second half. College of Idaho converted 29-67 shots and 22-29 free throws. Ozarks made 21-32 free tries and had a 38-27 rebound advantage.
Alex Santiago scored a game high 24 points for the Bobcats and was one of four players in double figures for Ozarks. Nathane Simniok added 17 points and had 12 rebounds with two blocked shots before fouling out with over three minutes to play. Santiago and Simniok combined to go 15-17 from the field. Joe Young and Pete Leonard had 12 and 11 points, respectively, for head coach Steve Shepherd’s team.
College of Idaho was led by Demetrius Perkins with 21 points while Josh Wilson converted for 14 and shared team honors in rebounds with Taylor Pruett with six and Pruett also scored 11. Antonio Garrett scored 13 and Joe Vaz came off the bench to score 11.
Ozarks, making its 18th appearance in the National Championship, improved its first round record to 11-7. This is the second year in a row the Midlands Collegiate Athletic Conference member has beaten a heavily favored team, beating No. 3 seed Northwood (Fla.) last season.
Ozarks is now 22-10 and will face Bethel (Ind.) on Friday, March 14 at 7:30 pm. College of Idaho bows out of the field with a 28-6 mark.