By Mike Byker, Sports Information Director at Dordt College
POINT LOOKOUT, Mo. - (Box Score)- The matchup between the no. 13 seed Northwood University (Fla.) and the Friends University (Kan.) did not disappoint as Friends earned its first ever win in Men’s NAIA Division II National Championship play with a 90-85 victory in the first round of the event held at the College of the Ozarks at Point Lookout, Mo.
The back and forth affair was not settled until the closing moments when Friends converted free throws to turn the game into a two-possession difference.
Northwood led for all but the first 4:01 of the game, building as much as a six point lead before taking a 40-36 advantage into the halftime intermission. A two point basket by Jake Lockhart started the Northwood scoring in the second half and the Seahawks maintained the lead until the 14:48 mark of the game.
A Joe Mitchell hoop gave Friends its first lead of the second half for a 54-53 advantage and the Falcons eventually got up 61-55 with 13:13 left. The lead changed hands five times over the next 11 minutes and neither team led by more than three during that span.
Ian Umpierre scored on a shot in the paint with 2:37 left to give Northwood the lead 83-82. Moments later Mitchell tied the game with a free throw. Umpierre delivered another basket for Northwood with 1:53 left for an 85-83 lead but the Seahawks could not score again. A three-point basket by Colton Rausch put the Falcons on top for good with 1:37 left 86-85 as a Northwood miss followed and was rebounded by Mitchell, who was promptly fouled. Mitchell converted both free throws with :45 left and after another missed three point shot by Northwood with :17 left, Zach Nelson was fouled and he made both free tosses with :13 remaining to give Friends the 90-85 win.
Friends took half of their field goal attempts from behind the three-point arc as they made 15-34 attempts for 44.1 percent and made 31-68 overall (45.6%). Northwood actually shot the ball better from the field as they converted 33-60 attempts (55%) but cashed in on just 4-14 three-point shots. Northwood had a slight 33-32 rebounding edge but the Falcons had 14 offensive rebounds which translated into them getting eight more shots off from the field.
Nelson and Mitchell shared game honors with 25 points each for Friends and Rausch added 17 for the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference regular season champion. Mitchell, who entered the game with a NAIA Division II best 32.7 points per game average, also had nine rebounds with four assists and a steal.
Northwood had six players in double figures with Chris Solomon tossing in 22 points. Fred Mattison scored 16 on 7-9 from the field and had eight rebounds. Chris Lee converted 13 points and took in a team high nine rebounds. Umpierre, Josh Doughty and Julian Smith all had ten points and Umpierre had nine assists and three steals in the loss.
Northwood exits the field with a 25-7 mark while Friends advances for the first time in five tries to the second round where they will face Cornerstone (Mich.) on Friday at 4:00 pm.