March Madness debuted a couple days early Saturday at the Corn Palace.
With both their seasons seemingly on the line, Dakota Wesleyan University was upset by No. 8 seed Mount Marty University in the Great Plains Athletic Conference men’s basketball tournament semifinals in Mitchell.
It’s the second upset this week for the Lancers, who stunned No. 1 Morningside College on Wednesday and did it again with a 64-58 double-overtime thriller over the Tigers.
“I am overwhelmed right now,” Mount Marty guard Elijah Pappas said. “I don’t know what to say.”
The Lancers will play at Northwestern College in the GPAC title game on Tuesday. They are the first No. 8 seed to advance to the title game in GPAC men’s basketball tournament history.
Pappas put the finishing touches on Mount Marty’s stunner with 17 seconds left, hitting a 3-pointer over Mason Larson for a 62-58 advantage. Chad Moran hit two free throws with four seconds left in front of 824 fans, the most for a DWU home game this season.
“It was a great college atmosphere and a great college basketball game,” DWU coach Matt Wilber said. “It’s just really disappointing to come out on the losing end.”
While the atmosphere was electric, the shooting percentages were far from it. The Tigers (19-8) and Lancers (11-16) struggled mightily from the field as they both shot under 40 percent. Mount Marty shot 20 of 52 (38.5%), while the Tigers were 21 of 67 (31.3%) from the field.
“It was a terribly, ugly offensive game,” Wilber said. “Both teams did not look good offensively. I give credit to Mount Marty for double teaming us and us not really handling it very well and that’s really disappointing. I feel badly for our guys because I should have a better plan against it.”
Dakota Wesleyan was also doomed by 19 turnovers.
“It was hard to really acknowledge it during the game because you are just trying to go onto the next play and forget about it,” Larson said. “But looking back, yeah, we definitely made some sloppy plays.”
Larson paced the Tigers with 13 points and seven rebounds. Sawyer Schultz added 12 points off the bench. Nick Harden added nine points and eight turnovers. Harden finished 3 of 18 from the field, while Koln Oppold went 1 of 15 from the field and finished with six points.
The Tigers went 7 of 25 from the 3-point line and was held under 60 for the second time in five games.
“We played good defense,” Larson said. “But just couldn’t put the ball in the hole the way we wanted to. We took it to double OT and there would have been games earlier this year we would have given up in that situation. We didn’t so I am pretty proud of that.”
Pappas led Mount Marty with 18 points. Tyrell Harper finished with 12 points and 13 boards.
The contest featured 12 lead changes and it was tied 10 times. Dakota Wesleyan had the largest lead, 40-33, with 7:17 left in regulation. The Lancers surged back and knotted it up at 49-49 with 10.4 seconds left. The Tigers had a shot at the win and had the ball under their basket with 2.9 seconds left. But Larson missed a short jumper in the lane on an inbound play, sending the game into overtime.
In overtime, the Lancers pulled ahead 54-52 with 53 ticks left. Larson converted an offensive putback with 12 seconds left to send the game into double overtime.
Larson’s 3-pointer with 4:44 left in the second overtime gave the Tigers a 57-54 advantage, but it was their final field goal of the game. After Jeffrey Schuch missed a contested shot in the lane, Harper buried a 3-pointer for a 59-57 advantage with 2:35 left.
Neither team scored again until Schultz split a pair of free throws with 44 seconds left. After a timeout, Pappas hit the game-clinching 3-pointer.
“All game they were sagging off me,” said Pappas, who said he was battling cramps throughout the game. “So I knew they wanted me to shoot that three. I went between the legs and it felt tight in my palm and I just let it go. I think I knew it was good when it came off my hand. I am not going to lie to you.”
The Tigers will now await their postseason fate. The NAIA selection show is March 4, but Wilber doesn’t feel optimistic about DWU’s chances.
“There’s no chance,” Wilber said. “We are going to be on the outside looking in.”
Mount Marty University 64, Dakota Wesleyan University 58
Mount Marty (11-16): Jailen Billings 4-12 4-4 14, Elijah Pappas 6-13 4-6 18, Luke Ronsiek 2-5 1-2 6, Chad Moran 2-5 6-9 10, Tyrell Harper 5-12 1-2 12, Allen Wilson 1-4 1-2 4, Gio Diaz 0-1 0-0 0, Kade Stearns 0-0 0-0 0, Keegan Savary 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-52 17-25 64.
Dakota Wesleyan (19-8): Koln Oppold 1-15 3-4 6, Nick Harden 3-18 3-3 9, Jeffrey Schuch 3-9 0-0 7, Mason Larson 5-10 0-1 13, Drew Cole 1-3 0-0 3, Teegan Evers 0-1 0-0 0, Sawyer Schultz 4-6 3-4 12, Ace Zorr 4-5 0-1 8. Totals 21-67 9-13 58.
Halftime: DWU 24, MMC 20. 3-point field goals: MMU 7-25 (Billings 2-6, Pappas 2-5, Ronsiek 1-4, Harper 1-6, Wilson 1-3, Diaz 0-1); DWU 7-22 (Oppold 1-2, Harden 0-5, Schuch 1-2, Larson 3-7, Evers 0-1, Schultz 1-3). Rebounds: MMU 39 (Harper 13); DWU 40 (Schuch 13). Assists: MMU 8 (Ronsiek 4); DWU 12 (Oppold 4). Steals: MMU 10 (Pappas 3, Harper 3); DWU 11 (Harden 5). Blocked shots: MMU 2 (Harper 1, Wilson 1); DWU 6 (Zorr 2). Turnovers: MMU 17; DWU 19. Total fouls: MMU 16; DWU 19. Officials: Kirby Wells, Joe Wells, Chris Girres. A: 824.