by Matt Bos, NAIA Media Coordinator
Point Lookout, Mo.— (Box Score) No. 3 Northwest Christian (Ore.) makes a return trip to Friday’s second round with a 91-78 win over No. 6 Midland (Neb.) in the first round of the 2017 NAIA Division II Men’s Basketball National Championship.
Playing in its third ever Division II National Championship, the Beacons earn a spot in second round back-to-back years. They lost to the eventual national champion, Indiana Wesleyan, in 2016.
Northwest Christian had to overcome deep second half foul difficulties, losing a starter and key reserve to the five-foul impost, and capitalized on the brilliant play of point guard Kenny Blackwell. The Beacons primary first half scorer, Blackwell finished with 20 points and five assists.
A tight first half saw Northwest Christian head to intermission with a 44-40 advantage behind Blackwell's 16 points. Midland stayed close throughout the half as Diamontae McKinley had 16 points, knocking down five three-pointers, and Alex Starkel, who contributed 14 and eight rebounds.
Brendon Taylor and Austin Tyner assumed the offensive burden for the Beacons in the second half, combining for 27 of the team's 47 points. Michael Loomis' layup with 5:49 remaining gave the victors their largest lead, 75-57.
Taylor backed Blackwell's performance with 18 points. Loomis added 15, Tyner 13 and Jack Hackman 10. Northwest Christian blistered the nets at 57% from the field and held a 37-29 edge on the glass.
McKinley had a game-high 24 points for Midland and Starkel finished his stellar career with 21 points and 11 rebounds. The Warriors struggled from beyond the arc, especially in the second half where they were just 1-for-11.Seeded third in the Liston bracket, Northwest Christian (25-5) advances to meet No. 2 IU East in Friday's second round at 10:15am. For more information on the national championship, click here. To watch the live video stream, go to NAIANetwork.com.