by Matt Bos-Media Coordinator
Point Lookout, Mo. – (Box Score) The Golden Eagles, now 33-3 on the year, advance to play in their sixth national semifinal, all coming since the 1999 season. They will play either No. Bethel (Ind.) or No. 6 Bellevue (Neb.) at 8pm on Monday.
Cornerstone big-men Kyle Steigenga and Sam Vander Sluis combined for 53 points and 32 rebounds. Steigenga registered his second double-double of the championship, 27 points and 14 rebounds, converting on 17-of-18 free throw attempts. The junior has scored 20+points in all three games at Point Lookout. Vander Sluis also tallied his second double-double of the championship, adding 26 points and a game-high 18 rebounds, sixth most all-time at the D-II event.
The entire game was another classic and highlighted the different styles of both teams. Using its quickness and perimeter game, IU East built up its largest lead (41-33) of the opening half with a three-pointer by Jordan Furlow, the ninth and final trey in the first 20 minutes. Cornerstone rallied and was within two by the break, utilizing Steigenga and Vander Sluis who both scored 15 in the first half.
Cornerstone grabbed the lead early and had a slight advantage for most of the final 20 minutes, despite playing without senior floor general Michael McLaughlin who fouled out with over eight minutes to go.
A three-point play by Steigenga put his team up six (64-58) and later, he and Vander Sluis combined for 11 straight Golden Eagles’ points to go up 88-79. A late 5-0 run on a three-pointer by Bishop Smith and free throw by Jacoby Claypool made it a four-point game but Cornerstone clinched it at the free throw line, making its final eight attempts.
"We came into the game knowing we had to keep them out of the lane as their guards are so quick and in the first half we did not do that,” said Cornerstone head coach Kim Elders. “We got back to better defense in the second and that gave us a chance."
The Golden Eagles shot 50% for the game and had a significant advantage both at the free throw line (36/44 compared to 12/20) and on the boards (50/29).
IU East was led by the junior guard tandem of Furlow (22pts) and Claypool (14pts). After blistering the nets to 56% from beyond the arc in the first half, the Red Wolves cooled off considerably to 22% over the final 20 minutes. They end the season with a 28-8 record.
For more information on the national championship, click here. To watch the live video stream, go to NAIANetwork.com.