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In need of victory, Tigers came through

Entering the final stretch of the season, the Dakota Wesleyan University men's basketball team still had a chance to be co-Great Plains Athletic Conference champs.

The student section roars as Dakota Wesleyan's Tate Martin (11) walks back to the free-throw line after drawing foul and making a basket to make it a 3 point play during a game against Northwestern on Wednesday night at the Corn Palace. (Matt Gade / Republic)
The student section roars as Dakota Wesleyan's Tate Martin (11) walks back to the free-throw line after drawing foul and making a basket to make it a 3 point play during a game against Northwestern on Wednesday night at the Corn Palace. (Matt Gade / Republic)

Entering the final stretch of the season, the Dakota Wesleyan University men’s basketball team still had a chance to be co-Great Plains Athletic Conference champs.

But the Tigers weren’t thinking about that during their GPAC regular season finale against Northwestern College at the Corn Palace.

“I wasn’t worried about a GPAC championship,” DWU coach Matt Wilber said. “Tonight, we needed to get a ‘W.’ ”

DWU not too long ago had a two-game lead in the conference. That lead had disappeared after the Tigers lost three-straight games. The streaking Red Raiders, meanwhile, entered with a three-game winning streak and were looking to clinch a share of the conference title with a win on Wednesday.

Playing in front of a season-high 3,194 fans at the Corn Palace, the Tigers picked up a much-needed 83-77 win in their regular-season finale.

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“We were playing for our lives,” Wilber said. “It just was a huge win for our basketball team and I just can’t say enough about those guys.”

Wilber also couldn’t say enough about the rocking crowd, which was dressed in summer attire for Hawaiian Night.

“I can’t say enough about our basketball crowd,” Wilber said. “I can’t just not say enough about it. We had 3,000 people here tonight and they were rocking and rolling from the start of the girls’ game to the end of the men’s game.”

The win ensured the Tigers will play at least another game at home, but their seed and opponent for the GPAC tournament are still in limbo. The head-to-head tiebreaker, which is used first by the conference, won’t apply because the Tigers split with the top teams in the league.

Regardless of Briar Cliff’s result against Hastings College on Saturday, the Chargers will be the No. 1 seed in the tournament. DWU and Northwestern College will either be the No. 2 or the No. 3 seed and both teams’ regular seasons are over at 13-5 in the GPAC.

If Morningside loses to Midland and Concordia beats Dordt on Saturday, DWU is No. 3 seed and would host No. 6 Concordia on Wednesday. Northwestern would own the tie-breaker over DWU because the Red Raiders would be 3-1 against Morningside and Concordia. DWU went 2-2 vs. Morningside and Concordia.

If Morningside defeats Midland on Saturday, DWU is No. 2 because the Tigers went 2-0 against Morningside. Northwestern is 1-1 against Morningside College. In that scenario, The Tigers would host No. 7 Hastings College on Wednesday.

So things are still somewhat muddled as the season comes to a close, but it’s clear the Tigers snapped their three-game losing skid at the right time.

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“Our goal is to get to the national tournament and this was a big-time game for that goal and nothing is guaranteed right now, but you are going to feel a lot better about going into (the conference tournament) not losing four in a row,” Wilber said.

Related Topics: CORN PALACEBASKETBALL
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