JAMESTOWN, N.D. – This one hurts. The Concordia University Men’s Basketball team led by as many as 17 points in a contest that became a GPAC meat grinder down the stretch. Star post player Mason Walters and host Jamestown made more plays after halftime and pulled out an 89-87 overtime victory in North Dakota on Friday (Dec. 18). This was the final pre-Christmas outing for both sides.
Head Coach Ben Limback’s squad missed out on an opportunity to earn a pair of GPAC road wins on the week (won at Midland on Tuesday). The Bulldogs slipped to 10-4 overall (7-3 GPAC).
“We had our chances but a lot of credit goes to them for fighting back,” Limback said. “Their big guy was really good and he’s very efficient. In the second half they were getting post touches a lot easier. It was a fun game, we just needed to close it out.
“We have to improve on our composure and finishing plays down the stretch, but I feel like we fought our tails off. Sometimes the ball doesn’t go in. We put ourselves in a position to win the game and didn’t get it done. There’s a lot of upset guys in the locker room and rightfully so.”
Concordia’s standout backcourt combo of Carter Kent and Justin Wiersema got loose in the first half in fueling an outburst that put the visitors in front, 37-20. From that point on, stops were difficult to come by. Walters powered in a game high 38 points and dished out seven assists while playing all 45 minutes. Walters made two free throws in the final 20 seconds of regulation to tie the game (76-76) and force overtime.
The Bulldogs probably feel like they should have sealed the deal in the final minute. Leading 76-72, Concordia failed to get a key defensive rebound and committed two critical fouls, including one that came 85 feet from the basket. The momentum had flipped. Jamestown (10-3, 6-2 GPAC) never trailed in an overtime session that saw the Jimmies make hay at the foul line. Meanwhile, the first three Bulldog possessions of OT went like this – one-and-done – turnover – turnover.
After halftime, Jamestown made 19-of-32 (.594) shots from the floor and held a decided advantage at the free throw line (21-for-29 for the Jimmies and 9-for-12 for the Bulldogs for the game). Despite the presence of Walters, Concordia managed to hold an edge on the boards, 39-35. Turnovers were nearly even (14-12).
Wiersema did his part with a line of 19 points, eight rebounds and five assists. He attempted to play the role of hero with two clutch baskets that broke a 71-71 tie late in regulation. Three other Bulldogs reached double figures in scoring: Kent (17), Klay Uher (15) and Gage Smith (14). Kent added five assists while Uher snared seven rebounds. Point guard Sam Scarpelli posted nine points, six rebounds and four assists. Ryan Holt also chipped in with nine points.
A victory at Jamestown would have been a feather in Concordia’s cap. The Jimmies are one of only two teams to defeat Morningside this season. In addition to another big night from Walters, Jamestown got 14 points off the bench from Cole Woodford. The 2019-20 regular season closed with the Bulldogs winning at Jamestown, 101-92, in overtime.
The Bulldogs will now enjoy an extended break for Christmas. Next up on the schedule is a nonconference matchup at Peru State College (6-5) slated for 7:30 p.m. CT on Wednesday, Dec. 30. The two programs also met last December with the result being a 109-60 Concordia blowout victory. Conference play will resume after New Year’s.
“To be able to play this many games in a pandemic and have the opportunities we’ve had, we’re certainly grateful for those,” Limback said. “It’s a much needed break for everybody. I really like the way we’re playing right now and what our team is about.”