By Dave Albrecht, Sports Information Director at Midland
POINT LOOKOUT, Mo. - (Box Score)- No. 10 Midland (Neb.) punches the first ticket into the quarterfinals as they hold off no.7 Saint Xavier (Ill.) 64-61 in the second round of the NAIA Division II Men’s Basketball National Championship. The 2014 event is being played at the Keeter Gymnasium on the campus of College of the Ozarks in Point Lookout, Mo.
St. Xavier charged out of the gate with a 7-3 lead on a layup by Brad Karp. Midland began to chip away and would go up by as many as six points after Brandon Williams converted a three-point play on a foul at the 8:42 mark. The two teams traded baskets and the lead until a pair of free throws by Jack Krieger knotted the game up at 21-21 with 4:30 left in the half. The Warriors exploded during the final minutes of the half scoring 12 unanswered points over the course of a 16-2 run heading into the locker room. Five different Midland players scored during that spurt which gave the Warriors a 37-23 advantage at halftime.
A three-point shot by Ben Imig at the 14:14 mark in the second half were the senior’s first points of the game and padded Midland’s lead to 48-33. Two minutes later, Marcus Franklin’s sweeping layup gave the Warriors a 16-point lead. The Cougars responded with three-pointers on back-to-back possessions that finally sparked their stagnant offense. Karp proceeded to connect from downtown as well, cutting the St. Xavier deficit to seven points, 55-48, with nine minutes to play. With 4:38 left in the game, it was another three-ball from Kreiger that brought the Cougars to within two.
St. Xavier had a chance to tie the game from the free throw line, but Michael Simpson missed both shots. Karp get the pressure on Midland however, as his short jumper with 2:06 on the clock made it a 57-56 game. Galen Gullie connected on a huge shot from beyond the arch to push Midland’s lead back to four points on the next possession. Trailing by one, St. Xavier went up the court with a chance to take the lead on the game’s final possession but Alex Starkel came up with a block for the Warriors to preserve the 60-59 lead with 11 seconds to play. Gullie went on to sink all of his free throws to close out the game and seal a 64-61 victory for Midland.
“This tournament is all about toughness and energy level, and through the first two games I couldn’t be more pleased with how our guys have performed,” said head coach Todd Eisner. “St. Xavier is unbelievable offensively, and they really made us battle today. Credit them with how poorly we played offensively in the second half as they made a run and gave us all we could handle.
The Warriors shot 47 percent from the field in the game and went 13-19 from the free throw line. St. Xavier struggled from the floor, shooting just 35 percent on the day after going just 6-24 in the first half.
Starkel was Midland’s leading scorer on the game with 14 points. Franklin and Gullie contributed 12 points each, and Williams added nine points with seven rebounds.
Saint Xavier closes the year with a 30-5 record and was led by Krieger and Karp with 18 and 17 points, respectively.
Midland improves to 28-5 and will play either Bethel (Ind.) or College of the Ozarks (Mo.) in Saturday’s quarterfinal.