By Matt Bos, NAIA Media Coordinator
POINT LOOKOUT, Mo. – (Box Score)- For the second time in as many games, one of the top four seeded teams falls as Friends (Kan.) ends the season for no. 4 Cornerstone (Mich.) 79-69. The win puts the Falcons into their first ever quarterfinals where they will play no. 5 Indiana Wesleyan at 3pm on Saturday, March 14.
Joe Mitchell poured in 30 points, 13 in the opening seven minutes as his team quickly opened up a 22-11 lead. The Falcons continued to push ahead, outscoring Cornerstone 14-7 to stretch their advantage to as much as 18 at two different points of the first half. A late Cornerstone surge, capped by a three-pointer by Wes Hudson, made it a nine-point game at the break, 38-29.
Another basket by Mitchell put the Friends’ lead back up to 11 but Cornerstone gradually fought its way back and trailed by just four (52-48) after a three-pointer by Hudson with 12:54 left. That would be as close as the Golden Eagles would get, however, as consecutive three-pointers by Zach Nelson and a put-back by Anthony White pushed the lead quickly back to 11. A last-ditch rally by Cornerstone made it a five-point game at the five-minute mark but was answered with a decisive 7-0 run by the Falcons.
Mitchell netted 16 of his 30 points in the first half and made 11-of-19 field goal attempts. Two other Falcons’ players joined him in double figures; Nelson with 15 and Brett Williams with 11 points and 10 boards. Friends shot a very impressive 59% for the game and an even better 61% (11-for-18) from the three-point arc.
Cornerstone never got any inconsistency on the offensive end, shooting 39% from the field and 26% from the three-point arc, well below their season average. Hudson led the Golden Eagles with 24 points, closing his career with over 2,000 points scored. Ben Lanning was the only other player in double figures with 17, also pulling down eight rebounds. Jake Plite added six points and 10 boards. They finish the season with a 30-5 record.
Friends, who earned its first ever win at the championship with its 90-85 victory over no. 13 Northwood (Fla.) on Thursday, advances with a 27-6 record.