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Tigers looking to complete another GPAC tourney upset

Matt Wilber isn’t thinking about how his team is one step closer to earning a bid for the NAIA Division II national tournament.

Wilber, first-year Dakota Wesleyan University men’s head coach, said his Tigers are focused on today’s task, beating second-seeded Morningside.

“Getting into the national tournament still feels like it’s in outer space,” he said Friday. “A couple of weeks ago, we were fighting to get into the conference tournament.”

Wilber’s team stunned third-seeded Midland Wednesday to advance to today’s semifinal contest. The road will only get tougher as the Tigers, who are the sixth seed, travel to face Morningside (23-8) at 3 p.m. today in Sioux City, Iowa.

The Tigers fell to the Mustangs in both meetings this season by an average of 13.5 points. DWU lost 92-84 in the first meeting Jan. 29 at the Corn Palace. Then the Tigers were stifled on the road, falling 101-82.

“I like how we’re playing, but we have lost to Morningside twice for a reason,” Wilber said. “They pose a ton of matchup problems against us. We’re going to have to be ready to play a fast-paced game, especially on the defensive end. They can get to triple digits pretty easily, and if we’re not ready early, we could get blown out of the gym.”

The Tigers may be without Trae Bergh today as the sophomore guard is a “question mark” to play. Bergh led the way for DWU Wednesday with 25 points, going 6-for-11 from behind the arc, but he left the game in the second half with an injury.

Wilber added Kris Menning, a junior guard from Corsica, will also be a game-time decision.

But Wilber, whose team also went 0-2 against Midland in the regular season, said the team has gained some momentum toward the end of the season.

With Wednesday’s victory, the Tigers are on a five-game win streak. The streak matches a run in the middle of the season from Dec. 14 to Jan. 4, when DWU upset No. 6 Hastings College at the Corn Palace.

With a win today, the Tigers will advance to play Dordt College or Hastings College in the GPAC championship — where they could potentially earn a spot in the national tournament. With a loss, their season ends.

The Tigers (18-13) haven’t made the trip to the dance since 2011. DWU competed in the national tournament for five consecutive years prior to that from 2007 through 2011.

Brooke Cersosimo
Brooke Cersosimo is The Daily Republic's sports editor.