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Tiger men hold off Chargers 84-81

Dakota Wesleyan’s Tate Martin, left, drives to the basket against Briar Cliff’s Bryan Forbes, right, in a Great Plains Athletic Conference game Wednesday at the Corn Palace in Mitchell. (Nick McCutcheon/Republic)

The Tigers won their eighth game in nine tries with a last-minute boost from an unlikely role player.

With forwards Luke Bamberg, Stephen Lee and Jalen Voss fouling out late, the Dakota Wesleyan University men’s basketball team turned to freshman Eric Warkenthien to help seal an 84-81 win over Briar Cliff University Wednesday at the Corn Palace in Mitchell.

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“The guy is sitting on the end of the bench and comes in to make a big free throw when we needed it,” first year DWU coach Matt Wilber said of Warkenthien, who had not played until the final minute of the game. “It is the essence of our team, when a guy comes in to make a big play like that.”

After Bamberg fouled out with a technical, Warkenthien stepped in to take two free throws with his team up a single point and 21 seconds left.

The freshman from Woonsocket split the pair before getting back on defense and forcing Charger forward Ricky Torres into a traveling violation.

“The knees were shaking a bit, but I knew I had to make at least one of those free throws,” Warkenthien said. “I knew they were going to go into the post with him (Torres) having a size advantage and I just wanted to make sure I stood strong and wide.”

The Tigers (13-8, 6-5) led the entire second half, but things got tight at the end as each team continuously marched to the free-throw line.

DWU seemed to have thwarted the Charger comeback when Bamberg pulled down a rebound with 26 seconds to go and was fouled. But the Corsica native was called for a technical foul for taunting according to DWU coach Matt Wilber, giving BCU another chance.

Warkenthien’s timely play, coupled with clutch free throws from Kris Menning and Jade Miller helped move DWU’s record in the Great Plains Athletic Conference over .500 for the first time this season.

“I thought we did really well considering what was going on in that game,” Wilber said. “This is a team and they have stuck together all season. That is why they are in this spot right now.”

DWU started its GPAC season with four straight losses, but has gone 6-1 in league play since.

The Tigers had four players score in double figures in the win over BCU, led by Voss with 23 points on 8-of-11 shooting. The junior forward added eight rebounds and three assists before fouling out.

Miller, a Mitchell native, stepped up with timely shots, finishing with 22 points. The sophomore was 3-of-4 from behind the three-point line.

Trae Bergh scored 15 points, while Menning added 14 for the Tigers, who shot 27-of-56 from the field and 9-of-25 from the three-point line.

Mitchell native Tate Martin finished with a game-high 13 assists to go along with five points in the win.

The Tigers shot 21-of-27 from the free-throw line, while the Chargers were 28-of-34. BCU won the rebounding battle 40-38.

The Chargers were led by Zach Otting, who finished with a team-high 21 points. BCU’s Bryan Forbes added 17 points, while Clayton Harreld added 15 in the loss.

DWU looks to continue its hot play against No. 10 Midland University at 4 p.m. Sunday at the Corn Palace in Mitchell.

The Chargers (14-8, 7-5 GPAC) play Hastings at 4 p.m. Saturday in Sioux City, Iowa.

Briar Cliff 81

Dakota Wesleyan 84

DWU (13-8, 6-5 GPAC)

Jalen Voss 8-11 7-7 23; Luke Bamberg 1-6 0-0 2; Trae Bergh 4-12 4-5 15; Kris Menning 3-8 6-6 14; Tate Martin 3-8 2-3 5; Sawyer Gibson 0-1 0-0 0; Jade Miller 9-13 1-3 22; Eric Warkenthien 0-0 1-2 1; Stephen Lee 1-2 0-1 2; Totals 27-56 21-27 84.

BCU (14-8, 7-5 GPAC)

Ricky Torres 3-10 6-7 12; Shane Graves 0-5 0-2 0; Clayton Harreld 4-9 6-6 15; Bryan Forbes 4-10 8-10 17; Zach Otting 8-16 2-2 21; Austin Pohlen 1-4 2-2 4; Kale Wietfeld 1-1 1-2 3; Austin Lefler 0-1 0-0 0; Matt Berg 0-0 0-0 0; Austin Homan 2-3 2-2 6; Ricky Williams 1-8 1-1 3; Totals 24-67 28-34 81.

Halftime: DWU 43-39. 3-point field goals: DWU 9-25 (Bergh 3, Miller 3), BCU 5-25 (Otting 3). Rebounds: DWU 38 (Bamberg 9, Voss 8), BCU 40 (Torres 9). Assists: DWU 23 (Martin 13), BCU 8. Steals. DWU 2, BCU 3. Turnovers: DWU 9 (Miller 5), BCU 7. Personal fouls: DWU 25, BCU 24. Technical fouls: DWU (Bamberg), BCU none. Fouled out: DWU: Bamberg, Voss, Lee.