Second-Half Surge Sends William Penn Back to Nationals
Oskaloosa–A squad nearly void of any familiarity to the Big Dance will make a very familiar trip for the program as the Statesmen men’s basketball team used a huge second half to defeat #5 seed Grand View 94-75 in the Midwest Collegiate Conference Tournament Finals Sunday.
#2 seed William Penn (22-9) earned its third-straight bid to the NAIA Division II National Championships and fifth all-time by outscoring the Vikings (17-14) 52-30 after intermission. The tournament will be contested in Point Lookout, Mo. on the campus of College of the Ozarks from March 12-18. The Statesmen will find out who their first-round opponent is Wednesday (March 5) at 8 p.m. during the NAIA’s live-streamed selection show on www.naia.org
Trophy Ceremony Video
William Penn is 4-4 all-time at nationals, including last year’s championship game appearance. The squad is now 4-1 at home in tournament championship games, including winning the last four. The Statesmen also improve to 4-4 all-time in MCC Tournament Finals.
WPU scored exactly 94 points for the third-straight time against GVU, but that tally seemed like a far reach after the hosts struggled from the floor in the first 20 minutes.
The Statesmen scored the game’s first five points, but were outshot 41.7%-34.1% in the opening period, including a 42.1%-25.0% deficit from beyond the arc. The stanza included seven ties and five lead changes with the Vikings up 45-42 as the buzzer sounded. Both sides were perfect at the free-throw line at that juncture (WPU 8-for-8; GVU 7-for-7).
The second half started the same as the first with WPU getting the first five points to take back the lead. Unfortunately, the Vikings had the next four, but a 12-0 run by the higher seed in a span of 3:15 gave the Statesmen the advantage for good.
The visitors had two more small runs up their sleeves, only to see the navy and gold provide answers for each rally. Up just eight at 66-58 with 10:46 remaining, the victors reeled off seven in a row and never led by less than 13 again.
WPU basically dominated on both ends in the second period, outshooting Grand View 47.4%-28.6% for a final edge of 40.5%-35.9%. The Vikings hit eight first-half trifectas, but were held off the board in that department in the last 20 minutes. The Statesmen only improved to 33.3% after halftime, but their five deep shots were timely ones.
A 54-41 rebounding margin was recorded by NAIA Division II’s best glass team. William Penn, paced by 12 boards from Kelly Madison (Jr., Des Moines, Iowa, Physical Education), had 11 more offensive rebounds than Grand View (20-9) which led to a 21-15 advantage in second-chance points.
The navy and gold also committed two fewer turnovers (11-13), helping them to a 14-6 mark in points off mistakes. Both teams eventually did miss at the charity stripe, but were still quite proficient as GVU was 21-for-24 and WPU finished 19-for-25.
William Penn’s starting five were more than integral to Sunday’s win as each scored at least seven points with at least seven rebounds.
Alec Schwab (Jr., Peru, Ill., Business Management) finished just 4-for-16 from three-point land, but scored in an assortment of other ways for a game-best 31 points. The junior, who posted 21 points after intermission, was 12-for-29 from the floor.
In addition to his rebounding success, Kelly Madison (Jr., Des Moines, Iowa, Physical Education) also tallied 25 points for his first double-double of the year.
Blake Walker (Sr., Rose Garden, Physical Education) came close to a triple-double of his own with 15 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, and two steals. Roberts Baltruns (So., Riga, Latvia, Business Management) got into double figures as well with 11, while Erik McGee (Jr., Oskaloosa, Iowa, Elementary Education) added seven points.
Walker and McGee are the only individuals who recorded playing time on last year’s national runner-up squad, while Logan Alexander (So., Eddyville, Iowa, Undecided) redshirted.
“To follow up what we did last year with this year feels like a dream,” Head Coach John Henry said. “Disney could not write a better script.”