Northwestern College erased an early 17-point deficit to earn a hard-fought 95-89 road win over No.12 Briar Cliff and take home the Great Plains Athletic Conference postseason championship tonight in Sioux City, Iowa. This is the fifth GPAC postseason title for the Red Raiders and first since the 2011-12 season. They also took home the postseason crown in 2001, 2002, 2008 and 2012. Northwestern, now 26-6 on the season, won the grudge match against BCU and snapped the Chargers' 12-game win streak. BCU drops to 26-7 on the season. Both teams have punched their ticket to the NAIA D-II Men's Basketball National Championship in Point Lookout, Mo. Nathan Wedel (6'4''-G) poured in a game-high 23 points and was one of five Red Raiders who scored in double figures. Colton Kooima (6'3''-G) netted 20, 15 coming in the first half, and Derek Buysse (6'5''-F) scored 20 coming off the Red Raider bench. Jordan Baker (6'6''-F) (12) and Parker Mulder (6'2''-G) (10) were the other top scorers as the Red Raiders' bench outscored BCU's bench 42-18.
KEY PLAYS A Shane Graves (5'10''-PG) three-point play put Briar Cliff up 17 (28-11), the largest lead of the game for either team, at the 11:28 mark of the first half; the Chargers drained five of their first seven treys of the game during the eight-plus minute stretch. Free throws by Riley Francis (6'4''-G), followed by a Buysse three-pointer and back-to-back jumpers by Kooima put the Red Raiders back to within 10, 30-20, over the next few minutes. The Red Raiders tightened up their defense during the final nine-plus minutes of the first half, holding the Chargers to a mere three field goals and 16 points as they closed on a 35-16 run. Kooima and Wedel put down back-to-back three's to get within four and two more three's by Kooima gave the Red Raiders their first lead, 41-38, just before the half. Northwestern led 46-44 at the break. Briar Cliff surged ahead with a 15-7 run at the onset of the second half, taking a 59-53 lead after another Forbes three-pointer. Northwestern battled back and after a jumper by Wedel, knotted the game at 60 with under 15 minutes to go. Nine lead changes and three ties highlighted the next eight minutes as the standing-room only crowd was put on edge; two free throws by Jay Wolfe gave the hosts their last lead (76-75) at the 6:47 mark but consecutive baskets by Baker gave Northwestern the lead for good on its next two possessions. Still a one possession game (87-85), Parker Mulder (6'2''-G) drained a three-pointer from the corner to put the Red Raiders up five and Briar Cliff would not get any closer than three over the final three-minutes. Northwestern sealed it from the free throw line, making five of its final six attempts during the minute.
BY THE NUMBERS Northwestern shot 58% for the game and made 11/20 three-pointers (55%); Briar Cliff shot 49% overall and was held to 32% (9/28) from the three-point arc. The Red Raiders held a significant edge on the glass, 32-19; Northwestern has out rebounded its opponents in 13 consecutive games. Northwestern is now 5-1 in GPAC Championship games; BCU is 1-1 in title games. Kooima's 20 points moves him past Doug Brunsting (1982-86) into 12th place with 1,686 career points; the junior has scored 20+ points in 19 games this season Wedel matched his season-high and scored 20+ points for the seventh time this season; he moved past both Darrell Kreun (1961-65) and Dave Dunkelberger (1982-84) into 33rd place with 1,194 career points Wedel pulled down a team-high nine rebounds, followed by Baker with eight and Parker Mulder (6'2''-G) with a career-high seven. Baker moved past Jeff Kraayenbrink (1975-79) into 20th place all-time with 1,405 career points; the senior also passed Brandon Woudstra (1999-2003) for fifth place all-time with 900 career rebounds Mulder dished out five assists, Kooima totaled four. Northwestern's 26 wins matches its highest win total since the 2007-08 season (also in 2011-12) Briar Cliff was led by Bryan Forbes with 22 points, draining a game-high five three-pointers; Shane Graves scored 18 and Erich Erdman totaled 15.
All-Tournament MVP: Nathan Wedel (6'4''-G) of Northwestern, IA Player of the Year: Tate Martin (5'11''-PG-93) of Dakota Wesleyan Defensive Player of the Year: Chandler Folkerts (6'8''-C-95) of Concordia, NE Freshman of the Year: Ty Hoglund (6'3''-G) of Dakota Wesleyan Coach of the Year: Nic Nelson of Briar Cliff
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