FREMONT, Neb. – Another tightly contested game greeted the Midland University men’s basketball team on Saturday afternoon, this time against the Dordt College Defenders. The Warriors were all but out, but showed resilience down the stretch.
The Warriors (5-8, 3-5 GPAC) erased a 12-point halftime deficit against Dordt (10-5, 4-4 GPAC) and nearly pulled off the comeback victory, falling just short in an 83-80 loss.
Midland’s offense looked stagnant at best in the first half as solid ball pressure from Dordt kept the Warriors from finding rhythm. The Defenders led the entire first half, but their offense wasn’t exactly clicking either as Midland managed to keep it close for the first 10 minutes.
Dordt nearly blew the game wide open with just under nine minutes to play as the defenders connected on four-straight field goals attempts. Freshman Malik Martin sank back-to-back jumpers, then assisted on a Sam Brown layup to keep the Warriors within seven points of the lead.
The Defenders finished the half on a 7-2 run that grew their lead to 36-24 at halftime, their biggest lead being by 14.
Out of halftime, Midland ramped up defensive intensity and began chipping away at the Dordt lead. Thanks to good ball pressure, Midland started the half on a 20-8 run and tied the game at 44-44 on a three-pointer from Dillon Faubel.
A few minutes later, another three from Faubel put Midland up 52-48 with just under 10 and a half minutes to play. Midland had stolen all momentum in the second half, but the Defenders didn’t fold.
Dordt responded to Faubel’s back-to-back threes with a 16-2 run that reclaimed a commanding 10-point lead with under seven minutes to go.
Moments later, Midland connected on three-pointers on five of its next six possessions, three makes coming from Bowen Sandquist and two from Reggie Gradwell. The flurry of threes allowed midland to chip into the lead and trailed by three with under four minutes to play.
With just under two minutes left, Sandquist connected on another three-pointer to put Midland up 78-77. Jumpers on back-to-back possessions for Dordt pushed the lead back to three for the Defenders with less than a minute left.
Bryce Parsons connected on a layup with less than 30 seconds to make it 81-80 in favor of Dordt. Jesse Jansma connected on two free throws to push the lead back to three points for the Defenders.
After a missed three-pointer from Martin and an offensive rebound from Gradwell, Midland had two seconds to get a three-pointer off. Dordt defended the inbounds play well, as Parsons had to force a pass towards the top of the key. The Defenders knocked it away to survive with an 83-80 victory.
Parsons, the leader of the Warriors, continued to do just that, pacing Midland with 22 points. The junior recorded a double-double with 10 assists and also added five rebounds and three steals.
Sandquist had a quiet 14 points thanks to catching fire from deep late in the game. Gradwell and Faubel added 12 points each, on three made three-pointers a piece.
Dordt shared the wealth just as well as Jansma, Garrett Franken, and Josh VanLingen tied for the team lead with 18 points while Chad Barkema added 14.
As a mostly inexperienced team, Midland hasn’t been able to come away with wins in close, late-game situations as of late. Learning to win tight games will be a big step for the Warriors to take with plenty of basketball still to play in 2018-19.
Perhaps in need of a vacation, the Warriors will get on over the holiday break with a trip to Lake Wales, Florida, to play a pair of games in the Holiday Inn Express Classic. Midland will face the host and No. 21 Warner University Royals (8-6 overall) and Rio Grande University (6-6 overall) on December 18-20. The Warriors face the Royals first on Tuesday at 3:00 p.m. CST.