MITCHELL, S.D. – The Dakota Wesleyan University men’s basketball team knew if it wanted to make an appearance in the Great Plains Athletic Conference postseason tournament, it needed to end the regular season with a win against Briar Cliff University Saturday night.
The Tigers responded to that need, beating the Chargers 81-75 in the final game of the season at the Corn Palace. The win put DWU (14-16, 9-11) in eighth place in the GPAC, ensuring the Tigers a spot in the league’s postseason tournament. Dakota Wesleyan travels to Orange City, Iowa, to take on No. 1 Northwestern College at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 20. The Red Raiders won the league’s regular-season title.
Dakota Wesleyan – which led much of the first half – led by as many as nine, 49-40, with 15:34 left to play Saturday. But the Chargers went on an 11-4 run to cut that lead to two, 53-51, with 12:49 left. Kris Menning hit a three to stop the run and push DWU’s lead back to five, but BCU cut the gap to one, 58-57, on a three by Taylor Murren with 10:38 to go. A pair of free throws by Jake Shipley gave the Chargers a 59-58 lead, but Aireus Stephenson scored on a layup to put the Tigers back up by one.
Briar Cliff tied the game twice more, but Bo LaCroix converted a three-point play to give the Tigers a slim lead they would never give up. The Chargers got within two, 73-71, with 3:33 left, but Carde Pennington scored and Stephenson hit a pair of free throws to make it a six-point game, 77-71, with 1:42 to play. DWU was able to convert its free throws down the stretch to hold on for the win.
After a close start to the game, Pennington scored to spark a 9-0 run that included a three by Jade Miller and put DWU up seven, 17-10, with 11:01 left in the half. The Tigers pushed their lead to as many as eight before the Chargers made a run and cut the gap to one, 24-23, with 6:46 left. A three by Zach Otting tied the game at 28, but another 9-0 run put DWU up 37-28 with 2:32 left before halftime. A layup by Luke Bamberg gave the Tigers a double-digit lead with 33 seconds left in the half, and DWU led 43-35 at the break.
Jalen Voss finished with 19 points and nine rebounds to pace Dakota Wesleyan, which shot nearly 58 percent from the field. Mike Lee added 16 points, Pennington had nine points and eight rebounds and LaCroix also had nine points. The Tigers went 9-for-18 from the line and had 32 rebounds and 10 turnovers.
Shipley finished with a game-high 27 points to pace Briar Cliff (19-11, 10-10). Murren added 19 points, including five 3-pointers, and Otting had 10 points. The Chargers shot 45 percent from the field, hit 12 threes and went 12-for-29 from the line. They had 31 rebounds and 11 turnovers.
Dakota Wesleyan looks to avenge its two regular-season losses to Northwestern Wednesday. The Red Raiders beat the Tigers by three points twice this season, including an 86-83 victory Feb. 13 at the Corn Palace.