FREMONT, Neb. – Midland University men’s basketball brought the fight to the NAIA’s No. 17-ranked team, but after 40 minutes of regulation and a 5 minute of overtime, it just wasn’t enough to pull off the upset. The Warriors (2-3, 1-1 GPAC) pushed Dakota Wesleyan (5-0, 2-0 GPAC) to overtime before coming just three points short of a big conference win in the early going of the 2018-19 season.
“We came up just a little short tonight,” head coach Oliver Drake said afterwards. “We made some bad mistakes down the stretch in regulation. It’s something that we’ll work on with our guys in the gym. I was pleased with our effort in the second half and felt we controlled the game for nearly 35 minutes. We’ve got to learn to close out teams down the stretch.”
The Warriors held two separate seven-point leads in the first half but could hold off the Tigers the whole game. Early in the second half, the Warriors led by as many as nine, but after a rally from Dakota Wesleyan, neither team led by more than five for the final 18 minutes of regulation or overtime.
Coach Drake used a different starting lineup for Saturday’s game, then shortened the bench in the second half, sticking with a group that seemed to be clicking. Drake hung with starters Bowen Sandquist, Bryce Parsons, and Sam Brown, along with Tyler Craven and Reggie Gradwell for the majority of the second half and overtime.
With just over a minute to play in regulation, a layup from Brown had the Warriors up five. Shortly after, Brown’s fifth personal foul forced him out of the game as Isaiah Workman replaced him on the court.
Aaron Ahmadu and Ty Hoglund each made two free throws in the final minute for Dakota Wesleyan, bringing the Tigers to within one with 20 seconds to play. The Warriors inbounded, and after some contact in traffic, Sandquist was called for a travel after dropping to a knee.
On the Tiger’s ensuring possession, Samuel McCloud knocked down his only three-pointer of the game (1-7), putting Dakota Wesleyan ahead 82-80 with 13 seconds left. After a timeout, Parsons drove the length of the court for Midland, drawing a double team on the baseline. Parsons found Workman under the hoop for the game-tying layup in in the final seconds of regulation, forcing overtime.
In the five minute overtime period, there were eight lead changes and three ties. The final change came after Parsons’ game-tying jumper with a minute to play. Two possessions later, Collin Kramer got the layup and the foul, Parsons’ fifth foul, to give Dakota Wesleyan a 95-92 lead with just seven seconds left.
On the Warriors’ final play, Craven’s three-pointer rattled off the rim, ending the upset bit after one of the more intense games the Warriors have played so far.
Midland was led in points by Sandquist, who had a quiet 23 points to lead the Warriors. Sandquist’s points were spread throughout the whole game as he finished 8-15 shooting, 7-12 from three-point range. Parsons (18 points) and Malik Martin (15 points) also finished in double figures for the Warriors.
On the other side, the Tigers rode the trio of Nick Harden (24 points), Ahmadu (23 points), and Hoglund (20 points) to the win.
The close loss is a tough one to take, but it is a sign of good things to come for the Warriors, proving to themselves and opponents that they can keep pace with some of the best teams in the country.
Midland will get their next opportunity as they take the court next Wednesday, November 14, against the (RV) Doane Tigers (1-4, 0-2 GPAC). Tipoff in Crete, Nebraska is set for 8:00 p.m.