by Matt Bos-Media Coordinator
Point Lookout, Mo. – (Web Link) No.6 Bellevue edged No.3 Briar Cliff 80-75 in the final game of the first round of the NAIA Division II Men’s Basketball National Championship.
The Bruins earned their second win over Briar Cliff this season and are the second No. 6 seed to advance to Friday’s second round action. Tabor (Kan.) is the other No. 6 seed as the Bluejays upset Davenport (Mich.) earlier in the day.
Five Bellevue players scored in double figures, led by sharp-shooting guard Michael Cardenas with 23 points, converting on 5-of-9 three-point attempts. Jaffery Stillman controlled the post area with 13 points and 10 rebounds while teammate Nick Hilton added 13 points.
It was the higher seeded Chargers who jumped out to and early 13-6 lead, getting three-pointers from Bryan Forbes (2) and Erich Erdman. Back came the Bruins, however, using a 16-4 run, capped by five straight points by Stillman, to turn the game’s momentum in their favor.
Bellevue led 43-40 at the break and pushed its advantage to as much as six (64-58) after a jumper by Cardenas at the 10-minute mark.
With its season on the line, Briar Cliff came back with one final surge, outscoring the Bruins 9-2 to take its final lead, 67-66, on a floater by Austin Lefler. Bellevue scored nine of the next 11 points, finished off with a three-pointer by Cardenas, to preserve the Bruins ticket into the second round.
Bellevue had a slight edge in nearly statistical category, shooting 49% from the floor and 47% from the three-point arc. They also outrebounded BCU 34-31.
Briar Cliff, the Great Plains Athletic Conference regular season champion, was led by Forbes with a game-high 25 points, followed closely by Erdman’s 24. The Chargers shot 44% from the field, 41% from the arc. They close the season with a 26-8 record.
Bellevue, now 23-10, will play No.7 York (Neb.) at 4pm on Friday, March 10.
For more information on the national championship, click here. To watch the live video stream, go to NAIANetwork.com.