FREMONT, Neb. – Midland University’s men’s basketball team bid farewell to four seniors in Saturday’s 2018-19 season finale. Fittingly, it was perhaps the most exciting game the Warriors played all season.
The Warriors (10-19, 5-15 GPAC) didn’t concern themselves with their recent struggles and played as well as they have in the last three weeks, but their efforts fell just short against the Northwestern College Red Raiders (17-12, 11-9 GPAC), who survived the road test with a 105-99 overtime victory.
In a phenomenal back-and-forth affair, the largest lead for either team was a nine-point advantage for Midland in the beginning stages of the game. After that point, neither team managed to get separation on the scoreboard.
Midland held the lead for the overwhelming majority of regulation, but Northwestern was constantly lurking. With just 11 seconds to play in regulation, Craig Sterk knocked down a game-tying three-pointer to force overtime.
The shot was the only time in the game that the momentum experienced a noticeable shift in favor of the Red Raiders.
Northwestern outscored Midland 18-12 in the overtime period, capping of a gritty victory for the Red Raiders in one of the most competitive games played all season in the GPAC.
The Red Raiders were led by Isaac Heyer and Sterk who each scored 25 points, with Sterk’s points coming off the bench. Jay Small (19) and Parker Mulder (12) were the other Northwestern players who finished in double figures.
Despite the loss, senior day wasn’t entirely spoiled by the visitors from Orange City. There were plenty of bright spots for Midland that sent the seniors out with something to be proud of.
Senior Tyler Craven, in front of a large crowd of family and friends, finished his collegiate career with a 25-point performance to lead the Warriors and notch a new career-high. Craven was 7-15 from the field, 3-4 from three-point range, and a perfect 8-8 from the free throw line.
The Ashland, Nebraska native also added five assists and four rebounds to his final state line. In an up-and-down season that saw varying amounts of playing time for the senior, Craven saved his best performance for last.
Reggie Gradwell never left the floor in his final game as a Warrior and finished with 17 points on 6-9 shooting from the field, including being 3-5 from deep, in 45 minutes of action. Gradwell, who transferred from Marshalltown Community College in Iowa, left it all on the floor to conclude his second and final season of basketball at Midland.
Graduate transfer senior Luke Cadzow unfortunately found himself in foul trouble for most of the afternoon, and his production was limited as a result. But, the Australian forward was a perfect 1-1 from the field in his final game, knocking down the only three-pointer he attempted in the game.
Cadzow would eventually foul out late in the second half as a result of his physical style of play, using his best efforts on defense to keep the Red Raiders off the scoreboard.
Finally, student assistant coach Weston Shepard dedicated four years to the varsity program, serving various roles on a team that saw lots of turnover in his time on campus. From Marengo, Illinois, Shepard found ways to help the team anyway he could, including as a coach in 2018-19. His teammates gave him their all on Saturday in his final game on the Midland sideline.
Seniors weren’t the only ones that contributed for Midland. Junior Bryce Parsons came off the bench and recorded 24 points, five rebounds, four assists, and one steal for the Warriors. Freshman guard Dillon Faubel capped off a breakout year with a 14-point performance.
Midland’s season was anything but a smooth ride. Roster turnover and injuries hovered over the program all season, and the team never found a comfortable groove as a result. But, with three talented freshmen now having a year under their belts to build off of, the upcoming recruiting class has the potential to create a young core that Coach Drake can work with for the next three seasons.