Sports: DWU wins double overtime thriller over Doane

CRETE, Neb. -- With Dakota Wesleyan University (8-2, 3-0) trailing Doane (4-5, 1-2) by three points in the final seconds of Saturday's first overtime, head coach John Hemenway called a timeout to diagram a play to try to tie the game. And by that...

CRETE, Neb. -- With Dakota Wesleyan University (8-2, 3-0) trailing Doane (4-5, 1-2) by three points in the final seconds of Saturday's first overtime, head coach John Hemenway called a timeout to diagram a play to try to tie the game. And by that point, there was no doubt in his mind who was going to shoot the ball.

The Tigers came out of the huddle and ran the play to perfection. Junior guard Colby Fitzgerald came off a double-screen, caught the ball on the left wing and buried a game-tying three pointer with six second left to force a second overtime. With the momentum clearly in its favor, DWU dominated the second extra period and escaped Crete, Neb., with a 103-93, double overtime win.

"It appeared to me, and everyone else in the gym, that he had the hot hand, so that was an easy decision to go to Colby (for the game-tying three)," Hemenway said. "He's pretty confident, and he's one of those guys that wants the ball in the clutch."

Fitzgerald capped his huge week with 34 points, including the biggest shot of the afternoon. He was 10-for-22 from the floor, 4-for-11 on threes and 10-for-12 from the free throw line. In the Tigers' three games last week, all wins, Fitzgerald averaged 28 points per game.

"I would be shocked if (Fitzgerald) isn't at least a co-GPAC player of the week," Hemenway said. "He had kind of a slow start to the year and he busted out of it with a pretty good game at Presentation. It just kind of took him a little while to get his feet wet and understand how I want him to play. He's very aggressive right now -- he's not backing away from any shots."


After a pair of big runs early, the GPAC contest was a battle the rest of the way. Doane surged to a 17-8 lead six minutes into the game, but DWU countered with 14-0 run to take a 23-17 lead. From there, neither team could pull away for a distinct advantage. In a second half that featured four ties and 11 lead changes, neither squad was able to build a lead larger than four points.

"We were down nine early in the game and we came back with a run that got us going," Hemenway said. "It was back-and-forth the whole way. I thought both teams did a good job of just hanging in there."

The Tigers had a couple of chances to win the game in the last minute of regulation. Clinging to a two-point lead with one minute left to play, Fitzgerald went to the free throw line to shoot a pair. He missed the first and made the second for a three-point lead, which was quickly erased when Doane guard Tyler Cyboron drilled a three at the other end to tie the score at 76-76. DWU forwards Scott Nelson and Preston Broughton both got shots inside to try to win it for the Tigers. Despite contact, the whistles stayed silent, both shots rimmed out and the game headed for overtime.

In the first overtime, Marcus Vontz sparked the Tigers to a quick seven-point lead. He scored on a drive and drilled a three-pointer, then hauled down a defensive rebound to set up a pair of free throws by Fitzgerald to give DWU an 83-76 lead. However, in just over a minute Cyboron knocked down three free throws, Dane Cruz converted a three-point play and Scott Neuhalfen drilled a three-pointer to tie the game at 85.

Doane took a one-point lead with 1:45 left and Cruz pushed it to three with a pair of free throws with 14 seconds on the clock. That's when Hemenway called timeout to set up Fitzgerald's big shot.

"It wasn't a good feeling," Hemenway said. "We were playing really well (in the first overtime) and then all of a sudden we couldn't score and they got hot on us for three possessions. But even when we were down three, I told our guys it was OK, we'd still have a chance to tie the game."

The momentum of Fitzgerald's shot carried over into the second overtime period. It started the same way as the first -- with the Tigers jumping out to a quick lead -- only this time Doane didn't have an answer. The Tigers clamped down on defense and held the home team to just four points in the second overtime to stay perfect with a 3-0 record in conference play.

If not for Fitzgerald's performance, Broughton would have been the story. He rebounded from early foul trouble to finish with his third straight double-double -- 24 points and 13 rebounds -- as well as a team-high five assists. Vontz was the third DWU player in double figures with 14 on an efficient 6-for-9 shooting performance.


Broughton led a trio of Tigers with double-digit rebounds. Nelson grabbed 11 rebounds including seven on offense, and Brady Wiebe added 10 boards. Ike Muoneke grabbed eight rebounds to give the DWU frontcourt a total of 42. As a team, the Tigers out-rebounded Doane 56-50.

"We did a nice job rebounding the ball," Hemenway said. "If you get 40 rebounds out of your front-line guys, that's great."

Heading into the game, DWU's defensive focus was on Doane star guard Dane Cruz. Cruz had a big scoring game with 33 points, but he shot just 10-for-25 from the floor and 3-for-11 on three-pointers. His performance was indicative of his team's -- they managed to score, but DWU made them work for it all afternoon.

"He's a really good player," Hemenway said of Cruz. "Anytime a kid scored 33 you didn't shut him down, but he took 25 shots. It's not like he scored 33 on 14 shots. Andrew (Lasche) was working hard on him, but good offensive players are hard to stop.

"We did a decent job on defense. We held them to 35 percent shooting from the field. So even though they scored 93 points through two overtimes, we played pretty well on defense."

The win sends the Tigers into Wednesday's huge GPAC contest against Northwestern (Corn Palace, 8 p.m.) on quite a roll. Since starting 2-2, DWU has won six straight games, and sits atop the league standings with a perfect 3-0 record. Northwestern, the preseason pick to win the conference and the No. 2 team in the country, was upset by Dordt in its conference opener, but Hemenway said the Red Raiders are still the team to beat this season.

"It's not a stretch to say they're the best team in our league," he said. "They were a final four team last year with all those same kids, so we're going to have our hands full no matter how we play. I think they're up around 91 points a game, so we're going to have to find a way to slow them down."




Dakota Wesleyan (8-2, 3-0 GPAC)

Fitzgerald, Colby 10-22 10-12 34; Broughton, Preston 8-17 7-10 24; Vontz, Marcus 6-9 0-0 14; Lasche, Andrew 3-9 1-1 9; Wiebe, Brady 4-5 0-1 8; Muoneke, Ike 3-6 0-4 6; Walder, Chase 1-4 1-2 4; Nelson, Scott 1-8 2-4 4; Nelson, Rocky 0-1 0-2 0. Totals 36-81 21-36 103.

Doane College (4-5, 1-2 GPAC)

Cruz, Dane 10-25 10-11 33; Neuhalfen, Scott 5-12 3-3 15; Streck, Ben 2-7 5-6 11; Cyboron, Tyler 3-13 3-3 11; Hamilton, Kolby 3-5 1-3 7; McFarland, Brett 3-6 0-0 6; Weatherholt, Tyler 2-4 0-0 6; Lind, Jack 1-8 0-0 2; Davis, Dontae 1-3 0-0 2; Christensen, Cole 0-0 0-0 0; Schlautman, Trent 0-0 0-0 0; Frantz, Kendall 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 30-84 22-26 93.

Halftime score-DWU 43, DC 40. Three-point goals-DWU 10-24, DC 11-37. Rebounds-DWU 56, DC 50. Assists-DWU 17, DC 18. Turnovers-DWU 14, DC 15. Steals-DWU 6, DC 7. Blocks-DWU 6, DC 3. Technical fouls-none.

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