POINT LOOKOUT, Mo. – In recent years, the Dakota Wesleyan University men's basketball team found themselves playing in close games in the NAIA Division II Men's Basketball National Championships. This year was no different as they squared off against the No. 5 seed, College of Idaho Wednesday night at the Keeter Gymnasium in Point Lookout, Mo.
The No. 4 seed Tigers trailed by as many as 15 points, but continuously battled their way back into the game multiple times. However, the Coyotes did not relinquish their lead down the stretch as DWU fell, 98-93. The loss ended the Tigers season with a 23-10 record.
With 7:52 remaining in the Tigers season, they stared at a 15-point deficit and began clawing their way back into the game. The run was started by a Trae Vandeberg (Madison, S.D.) 3-pointer followed by a Jason Spicer (Sioux Falls, S.D.) layup a minute later.
Minutes later, Vandeberg nailed back-to-back 3-pointers to narrow the gap to 88-84. With the clock running down, Vandeberg knocked in his fifth 3-pointer of the game to bring the Tigers to within three points. However, the heroics were not enough as the Tigers lost 98-93.
The game started with freshmen duo, Nate Davis (Watertown, S.D.) and Ty Hoglund (Dell Rapids, S.D.) scoring the first nine points for the Tigers. With under three minutes to go in the first half, the Tigers trailed 41-29. DWU woke up the Tiger faithful with a furious run to end the half. Davis swished in a 3-pointer followed by a Vandeberg layup. With the first half winding down, Hoglund saw a deep shot from beyond the arc bounce out, but Vandeberg was ready as he tipped the ball in as the buzzer sounded. The Tigers trailed 44-42 at the break.
"We were down 14 points twice," Head Coach Matt Wilber said. "It could have been cave-in city, but we just kept coming back."
As the second half began, Tate Martin (Mitchell, S.D.) made a layup to give the Tigers their only lead of the game. Seconds later, the Coyotes regained the lead that they would not give up for the remainder of the game.
Martin and Co. would not go down without a fight. Just as the Coyotes stretched their lead to double-digits with 13:24 left, Martin nailed a 3-pointer to keep the Tigers within striking distance. DWU responded with a basket every time the Coyote's lead reached double digits.
But, with 7:52 left in the game, the Tigers were not able to overcome a 15-point deficit and make a big enough push to capture the victory and continue their season.
Vandeberg led all scorers with 27 points and nine rebounds. Martin and Spicer each added 16 points and four assists while Hoglund tallied 15 points and four rebounds and Davis scored 12 points. Spicer also tallied his 1,000th-career point in the contest. The Tigers shot 46 percent from the field and 34 percent from 3-point range in the game.
"Our goal is to get back to Branson," Wilber said. "I know we are going to have some guys itching to get back at it."