Statesmen Survive to Make Another Finals Trip
Oskaloosa–For the second-consecutive game, the William Penn men’s basketball held a seemingly-insurmountable lead, only to have to hold on in the second half in a 96-89 Midwest Collegiate Conference Tournament Semifinal win over #6 seed Mount Mercy Friday.
The win gives #2 seed WPU its eighth championship game appearance in the last ten years. William Penn (21-10) will again play a squad coming off a huge upset as #5 Grand View knocked off top seed St. Ambrose 90-75 in Davenport Friday. Just like it did against AIB on Wednesday and Mount Mercy tonight, the navy and gold will seek a three-game season sweep against the Vikings (17-13), having won 94-79 in Des Moines on January 29 and 94-87 in Oskaloosa last Saturday.
The programs also met for the 2010 tourney title with GVU victorious 85-71 in Des Moines.
The hosts executed a nearly perfect script in the first 20 minutes, rolling out to 27-6 lead just 7:38 in. WPU continued to pour it on, going up by as much as 25 at 46-21 with 4:29 left. The Mustangs were able to chip away a bit with the final five points to make it 52-34 at the break. The Statesmen outshot the visitors 52.6%-40.6% at that point.
William Penn remained well in control at 61-44 at the 16:19 mark, but then Mount Mercy (12-20) suddenly caught fire. The visitors, who held a 54.1%-45.5% shooting edge after halftime, tallied 13 straight in a span of just 2:34 to turn it into a brand new contest at 61-57 with 13:46 on the clock.
The Statesmen finally got straightened out and a 7-0 run put the home squad back up by 15. The Mustangs refused to quit, however, with 11 of the next 13 points for an 82-76 WPU edge with 5:14 remaining. William Penn, paced by a double-double of 25 points and 13 rebounds from Alec Schwab (Jr., Peru, Ill., Business Management), never put the game to rest until the final minute, but also did not allow MMU to get within seven again.
Schwab was 8-for-12 from the floor, including a 5-for-8 three-point showing (4-for-5 FT).
After being held off the board in the first period, Tyler Stahle (So., Bountiful, Utah, Business Management) was exceptional to keep WPU afloat after intermission, scoring all 18 of his points on 7-for-9 second-half shooting (2-for-4 3-PT, 2-for-2 FT).
The final shooting tally went to WPU 49.3%-47.8% as did the rebounding margin, 44-37. Although they had three more offensive boards, the Statesmen were outscored 16-13 in second-chance points. The victors countered that with five more points off turnovers (18-13) despite committing one more mistake (11-10).
Kelly Madison (Jr., Des Moines, Iowa, Physical Education) matched Stahle with 18 points, while Blake Walker (Sr., Rose Garden, Physical Education) was a double-double producer with 13 points and 11 rebounds.
Roberts Baltruns (So., Riga, Latvia, Business Management) added seven points in the win as well. The glass advantage came even though the league’s top rebounder Erik McGee (Jr., Oskaloosa, Iowa, Elementary Education) was limited to only 24 minutes (ten in the first half) due to foul trouble. The junior still pulled down seven boards in addition to three steals.
“We played probably our best first half of the year on both ends,” Head Coach John Henry said. “Unfortunately, our defensive effort was lacking early in the second half and Mount Mercy took advantage. I give Mount Mercy a lot of credit as they played really hard. We are fortunate to get out of here with a win. Tyler was amazing in the second half and without him, we probably would have lost.”
“These kids never stopped believing and working all season, and to be playing on Championship Sunday is awesome,” Henry added. “It is incredible that we are going to play in our eighth title game in the last ten seasons. Even with school out for spring break, we know it will be an awesome atmosphere with Grand View coming to town. We are excited for the opportunity to play for a chance to get back to Branson.”