By Matt Bos, NAIA Media Coordinator
POINT LOOKOUT, Mo. – (Box Score) No.5 Indiana Wesleyan won its first ever NAIA Division II Men’s Basketball National Championship with a 78-68 victory over No. 10 Midland (Neb.) tonight at the Keeter Gymnasium on the campus of College of the Ozarks in Point Lookout, Mo.
Behind a 21-point and five assist effort by championship most outstanding player Jordan Weidner, the Wildcats captured its first national title in this, their seventh appearance in the 32-team championship. Indiana Wesleyan won all five games at this year’s event by double digits and finish the season with a 31-6 record, the most wins in Division II this season.
“We were in control throughout the game,” commented head coach Greg Tonagel. “I felt good about our guys and they have been locked in since we got out here. To win every single game by double digits speaks of the focus and energy that we had. With the senior leadership of Jordan, he just wasn’t going to let us lose.”
Indiana Wesleyan never trailed in tonight’s contest, opening up a nine-point lead (16-7) after a three-pointer by RJ Mahurin. They went up by as much as 10 moments later until Midland rallied with an 11-2 surge and following an Avery Langford three-pointer, the Warriors were within one (19-18).
The teams traded baskets over the final four minutes of the half. Midland senior Ben Imig knocked down a long three-pointer, his only basket of the first half, to make it a three-point game but Weidner hit the final shot of the half to put Indiana Wesleyan up five, 36-31, at the break.
Still a four point game early in the second frame, Indiana Wesleyan began to pull away, using a 9-0 run, getting baskets by RJ Mahurin, Bob Peters and a three-pointer by Zac Vandewater. Imig brought Midland back to within seven moments later but IWU responded with a 13-4 run, capped by a jumper by Weidner, for its largest lead of 17 (69-52) with five minutes left to go.
Midland made one final charge and after a basket by Galen Gullie, were down seven (70-63) with 2:22 left but free throws by Weidner and Lane Mahurin down the stretch iced it for the Wildcats.
Indiana Wesleyan shot 44% for the game and had four players score in double figures. In addition to Weidner, RJ Mahurin scored 19 and Lane Mahruin chipped in 11 to go with seven rebounds. Vandewater recorded a double-double with 10 points, 10 boards and dished out five assists. Indiana Wesleyan once again shot well from the free throw line, as they had for the entire championship, going 20-for-26 (81%). The Wildcats set the championship record with 128 free throws made over the five games, breaking the old mark (108) set by Northwestern College (Iowa) in 2008.
“I can’t put this into words. It’s such a reward for all the hard work, all the extra time and all the practices,” said Weidner. “This just makes it all so worth it and I couldn’t have asked for a better group of guys to do it with.”
Imig closes his career at Midland with 17 points, scoring 15 in the second half. Marcus Franklin netted 15 and Alex Starkel just missed out on a double-double with 10 points and nine boards. The Warriors shot 39% from the field, 31% from the three-point arc. Midland finishes the season with a 30-6 overall record.
Both teams grabbed 37 rebounds and registered 13 turnovers. Indiana Wesleyan closed the season by winning 14 of its last 15 games.
2014 NAIA Division II Men’s Basketball All-Championship Team:
Joe Mitchell-Friends (Kan.)
Dwayne Johnson-Southeastern (Fla.)
Tim Mitchell-Southeastern (Fla.)
Dominez Burnett-Davenport (Mich.)
RJ Mahurin-Indiana Wesleyan
Ben Imig-Midland (Neb.)
Galen Gullie-Midland (Neb.)
Jarrell Turner-Robert Morris (Ill.)
Alec Schwab-William Penn (Iowa)
Kelly Madison-William Penn (Iowa)
2014 Championship Most Outstanding Player: Jordan Weidner, Indiana Wesleyan
NABC/NAIA Division II Coach of the Year: Greg Tonagel, Indiana Wesleyan
Rawlings-NAIA Division II National Coach of the Year: Todd Eisner, Midland
Championship Hustle Award: Lane Mahurin, Indiana Wesleyan
Dr. James Naismith/Emil Liston Team Sportsmanship Award: Indiana Wesleyan