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DWU edges Dordt

The basketball gods must have been Dakota Wesleyan fans Thursday night. Elsewhere in the GPAC, the No. 1, 3 and 4 teams all lost at home in quarterfinal games of the Great Plains Athletic Conference postseason tournament. But at the Corn Palace, ...

Tigers edge Dordt
Leah Rado/Republic DWU's Brady Wiebe puts up a shot around Dordt's Chris Van Roekel (41) and Logan Kingma Thursday night at the Corn Palace. The Tigers edged past the defenders, 67-65.

The basketball gods must have been Dakota Wesleyan fans Thursday night.

Elsewhere in the GPAC, the No. 1, 3 and 4 teams all lost at home in quarterfinal games of the Great Plains Athletic Conference postseason tournament.

But at the Corn Palace, the No. 2 DWU men's basketball team kept its postseason run alive and became the top seed left in the tournament with a 67-65 win over Dordt College.

"I'm just glad it wasn't No. 2 that got upset," DWU coach John Hemenway said. "It's a gutty, gritty win for our guys. I don't think Dordt necessarily deserved to lose and I don't think we necessarily deserved to lose, but we just made a couple more plays down the stretch than they did."

The Tigers, tied for the No. 14 ranking in the NAIA and 24-7 on the season, host Concordia at 8 p.m. Saturday in a semifinal game. No. 6 Concordia upset No. 3 Briar Cliff, 101-97 in overtime. No. 9 USF knocked off No. 1 Morningside, 63-61 in Sioux City, Iowa, and No. 5 Hastings College upset No. 4 Northwestern, 89-70, making DWU the highest seed left in the tournament.

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"That's real big," DWU sophomore Chase Walder said. "We love playing here. Our fans are awesome; some of the best in the GPAC."

For a few minutes, it looked like all four of the top seeds would be knocked off Thursday. The Defenders were up, 59-58, with just under six minutes left to play. The two teams exchanged baskets for the next several minutes, and neither was able to pull ahead by more than a single point.

Dordt had the chance to go up by two with 1:45 left to play when Mark Taatjes was fouled on his shot, but he missed the free-throw to keep it a one-point Dordt lead, 65-64. Ike Muoneke scored on the Tigers' next possession, and with 42 seconds remaining, Logan Kingma missed a jumper and Mitch Bain grabbed the rebound.

Mitch Bain was fouled with 14 seconds left in the game and made the first of his two free-throw attempts for a 67-65 DWU lead. Brandon Oldenkamp attempted a three pointer with four seconds left on the clock to win the game, but Muonke blocked his shot and Brady Wiebe was fouled on the rebound. Wiebe missed his free throw, but Dordt couldn't get a shot off before time expired.

"It was a grind-it-out game," Walder said. "They just really kept it going. (Michael) Eekhoff is a good point guard."

The game was a battle from the beginning. Dordt and DWU were neck-and-neck until Bain and Scott Nelson hit back-to-back three-pointers and Wiebe hit a layup for a 28-21 lead. But from there, Dordt went on a 13-2 run to grab a 34-30 lead. The Defenders led 35-32 at the half.

In the second half, the Defenders pulled away by as many as 10 points before the Tigers were able to hit their shots. DWU went on an 11-6 run that ended with a three-pointer by Bain to get back within one, 53-52, and set up the last-second heroics.

"We have struggled offensively for a few weeks now," Hemenway said. "We've got some tired legs; I think maybe that has something to do with it. The good thing is we made a couple shots when we absolutely had to."

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DWU shot 37 percent from the field in the first half, but warmed up and shot 48 percent in the second and finished shooting 42 percent. Dordt shot 40.6 percent. Wiebe led DWU with 17 points, 13 rebounds and five blocked shots. Bain added 14 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists, Muoneke had 10 points and Walder had nine. Mitchell native Jordan Long scored six points.

Michael Eekhoff led all scorers with 24 points for Dordt, which ended the season 15-14. Kingma finished with 15 points, 10 rebounds and five blocked shots.

DWU won the battle on the glass, 45-37.

"Anytime we win that rebounding battle, that's usually a pretty good sign for us," Hemenway said.

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