Defenders Fend off Comeback as Warriors Drop Fifth Straight Game

FREMONT, Neb. – Midland University’s men’s basketball team fought hard from start to finish on Saturday night, but the young team was outmatched by one of the more deep and consistent teams in the GPAC.

The Warriors (7-14, 3-11 GPAC) stole the momentum early in the second half, but the (RV) Dordt University Defenders (18-7, 9-6 GPAC) weathered the storm and shot their way to a 100-79 road victory.

“We haven’t been able to be solid and sound enough in these types of games against really good teams,” said Midland head coach Oliver Drake. “We just have to continue to try and get better.”

Ben Geslink was the key contributor for Dordt in the first half as he filled the stat sheet nearly every way possible. In the first 20 minutes, Geslink totaled 15 points, seven rebounds, and three assists. He would finished the game as Dordt’s leading scorer with 20 points while adding nine rebounds and four assists.

The Defenders had steadily built a sizeable lead throughout the first half, but a 16-0 run late in the half helped balloon their lead to as high as 24 in the opening period before taking a 21-point lead into halftime.

Sophomore guard Emanuel Bryson did his best to keep the Warriors in the game as he came off the bench and scored 14 points in the first half. Dordt chose to give Bryson space on defense, and Bryson made them pay by making five mid-range jump shots to keep the Warriors within striking distance for most of the half.

Despite the rough go late, Midland came out in the second half and took the momentum away from the Defenders. The Warriors got a quick bucket from junior Laurence Merritt to open the half, then turned defense into offense as freshman Sam Mailloux scored a point-blank look to force an early timeout from Dordt.

Shortly after that, Mailloux recorded two blocks and hit three-pointers on back-to-back possessions to cut the lead to 13. With the momentum back on their side, the Warriors cut the deficit to single digits with 15 minutes to play after a pair of free throws from freshman Hunter Mengel.

“We didn’t get after them much at halftime, I just asked the guys what they thought, because typically the players have a pretty good feel for what’s going on,” Drake said. “They were real about it, and we just asked them to respond and control what they could control in the second half.”

The early flurry from Midland proved that the Warriors wouldn’t got down without a fight, but Dordt used a size advantage down low to get easy looks and get back on track. The Defenders quickly got the lead back to 20 points and managed to keep it their for much of the final 10 minutes as they eclipsed the century mark for the fourth time this season (3-1 record when scoring 100+).

Zach Bussard helped get the offense going along with Gesink as he totaled 14 points and grabbed 5 rebounds. Thanks to his play inside, the Warriors were forced to clamp down, which freed up open perimeter shots for Dordt, who finished the game 13-for-26 (50 percent) from deep.

Cade Bleeker (19 points, 9 rebounds), Garrett Franken (17 points, 10 rebounds), and Marcus Winterfeld (12 points) helped lead Dordt to the win and contributed to the Defenders outrebounding the Warriors 46-22.

Sophomore guard Bowen Sandquist finished with 16 points thanks to 4-for7 shooting from the field while Bryson finished with 21 to lead all scorers. Merritt (14), freshman Jake Rueschhoff (10), and Mengel (10) each finished in double figures as well.

The energy and intensity in the second half is the lasting image from this game for Midland. Despite a rough patch as of late, the Warriors have shown their heart and determination late in games multiple times and have refused to go down without putting their best efforts forward.

“Our guys are making progress behind the scenes, but for whatever reason, on game nights, we don’t always show it,” Drake said. “I like this group, and as a young bunch, they showed some character in the second half.”

Midland embarks on a tough test this week as the Warriors travel to Sioux City, Iowa to play the No. 1 Morningside College Mustangs on Wednesday, Feb. 5. Tipoff is scheduled for 8:00 p.m.