Statesmen Outlast Feisty Eagles to Advance
Oskaloosa–On a night when Alec Schwab (Jr., Peru, Ill., Business Management) became just the second player in school history with multiple 40-point games, the William Penn men’s basketball team held off #7 seed AIB 106-96 in the quarterfinals of the Midwest Collegiate Conference Tournament Wednesday.
Schwab scored 29 of his game-high 40 points in the second half as second-seeded WPU (20-9) overcame a five-point deficit to move to the next round. The road back to Point Lookout, Mo. also got a little easier Wednesday as #6 Mount Mercy upset #3 Clarke 79-73. William Penn will now host the 12-19 Mustangs in Friday’s semifinals. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.
Maybe looking past the Eagles, which ended their year at 1-28, the Statesmen fought hard to lead by only one at halftime, 44-43. Roberts Baltruns (So., Riga, Latvia, Business Management) paced the navy and gold at that juncture with all of his 13 points.
After six lead changes and one tie in the first stanza, the squads continued to go back and forth in the first few minutes of the second period. Two ties and four more lead changes later, WPU took the advantage for good at 58-57 on a three-pointer by Kelly Madison (Jr., Des Moines, Iowa, Physical Education) with 15:43 left in the game. The shot was part of a 10-0 Statesmen run.
Only up six with 10:52 remaining, the hosts finally caught fire on both ends and took what seemed to be an insurmountable 22-point lead at 94-72 with 5:09 left.
Unfortunately, AIB would not quit, scoring 13 unanswered in just 1:44 to claw back within single digits. The visitors actually pulled to a six-point margin (100-94) at the 1:43 mark, but William Penn scored the next four points to ice the victory.
Schwab’s 14-for-23 performance (4-for-11 3-PT, 8-for-9 FT) was almost in vain as the Statesmen were nearly beaten by their own style. William Penn is the most prolific three-point shooting and rebounding team in NAIA Division II, but it was AIB which held a 14-11 advantage from behind the arc and a 39-32 edge on the glass. It is just the fifth time this year that William Penn has been behind in board-tallying and also the fifth time it has been the less-accurate team from deep.
Schwab, who also tallied 43 points against Clarke just 18 days ago, joins Statesmen great Gerald Reece as the only other player to have scored at least 40 points more than once (Reece did it three times).
He was not the only successful Statesmen, though, in the seventh 100-point game for William Penn this year. In addition to Baltruns’ 13, Madison had 19, while Blake Walker (Sr., Rose Garden, Physical Education) posted 11. Tyler Stahle (So., Bountiful, Utah, Business Management) contributed ten off the bench as well. Walked also assisted on seven baskets.
With defense lacking for both sides, WPU held a 55.2%-50.7% shooting edge. WPU also managed a 21-for-29 free-throw outing, compared to an 8-for-13 showing by the Eagles.
Erik McGee (Jr., Oskaloosa, Iowa, Elementary Education) fell just shy of a double-double as he nearly gobbled up half of his team’s rebounds. The junior had nine points and 15 boards.
The win also gives William Penn its sixth 20-win campaign in the last eight seasons. Prior to this recent stretch, the program had only hit the 20-win threshold five times.
In sneaking past the league’s lowest seed, WPU Head Coach John Henry had nothing but positive things to say about the Eagles.
“I have never seen a ‘never-give-up’ group like AIB’s team,” Henry said. “They always play hard, even with their overall season record.”
“We played well tonight and fortunately it was enough because AIB was awesome,” Henry added.