Instant classic ends in victorious Friedrich Arena court storming

By Jacob Knabel on Feb. 22, 2024 in Men's Basketball

SEWARD, Neb. – Chalk it up as a game for Bulldog folklore. One of the more meaningful clashes of the entire GPAC regular season gave fans inside Friedrich Arena everything they could have asked for – plus overtime. In the aftermath of back-and-forth jabs and literal blood spilled, the Concordia University Men’s Basketball team celebrated along with the throng of students that emptied the bleachers. Somehow, the Bulldogs snatched it out of the fire, 69-67, over Hastings in an overtime tussle that left the entire arena breathless on Wednesday (Feb. 21) night.

Head Coach Ben Limback’s squad spent all evening playing catchup, but in the end, it pulled even for first place in the GPAC standings with a 14-5 league record (21-6 overall).

“There’s no words,” Limback said. “There were so many times where we could have just rolled over. I thought first half they just came out swinging. We were a little intimidated and it felt like we were on our heels. They outplayed us in a lot of areas, so we challenged our guys at half. We chipped away, chipped away and never really were sharp from three or got into a rhythm. They did a great job of making it a rock fight. I’m just so proud … so many things happened. I can’t wait to watch the film.”

The odds were strongly against a Concordia win as it trailed 62-59 in the closing seconds of regulation. Hastings strategically chose to foul Noah Schutte with 3.8 seconds remaining rather than let the Bulldogs fire a potential game-tying three. Schutte made the first free throw and after he intentionally missed the second, Tristan Smith was fouled while fighting for the rebound. Smith calmly sank two free throws to knot it, 62-62. Hastings immediately turned it over, leading to a Schutte 3-point attempt that misfired at the buzzer.

Concordia never held a lead the entirety of the second half, but it finally broke through with 2:10 remaining in overtime. That’s when Schutte pulled down a defensive board and fired a strike to Jaxon Stueve for two points in transition, making it 68-67 in favor of the Bulldogs. There were rough-and-tumble empty possessions the rest of the way. To close it out, Stueve made 1-of-2 free throws with 1.7 seconds and a full-court desperation heave from Hastings came up well short. The celebration was on.

The most amped up Friedrich Arena environment of the season ate it up. Said freshman guard Brooks Kissinger afterwards, “I think the atmosphere played a huge part in our win – the soccer guys and all the fans cheering. It definitely helped us out tonight to get some momentum.”

The home crowd helped pull Concordia through some rough patches. The Bulldogs faced a deficit of 14-6 right out of the gate and then trailed by scores of 36-22 at halftime and 40-24 early in the second half. The Broncos still owned a double-digit lead (53-43) with less than six-and-a-half minutes to play. Hastings’ man-to-man defense bodied up Concordia and made the task of putting the ball in the basket exceedingly difficult. The Bulldogs shot just 36.7 percent (22-for-60) for the game.

Eventually, Concordia had to match Hastings’ toughness. Schutte defined toughness in providing 19 points and a career high 18 rebounds. Schutte electrified the crowd with a driving two-hand slam with just over three minutes to go in regulation (sneaking the Bulldogs within 57-54 at the time). In the win, Schutte pushed his career point total to 1,702 and passed former teammate Carter Kent (1,699) for fifth place on the program’s all-time scoring list.

It was also a big-time game for Kissinger, who slashed his way to 14 points on 6-for-9 shooting. Even the air-tight Bronco defense struggled to keep Kissinger from finding his way to the basket. Additionally, Smith put up 12 points and eight rebounds, Stueve posted nine points and four rebounds and Brad Bennett added seven points, five rebounds and four steals.

Said Kissinger, “Coming into the game, we knew it was a must-win game, so we had that mentality the whole game, even when we were down 15. We knew we could come back in the second half and make our mark. In the overtime, it was putting everything on the line. That’s what we did.”

Hastings (19-8, 14-5 GPAC) had grown accustomed to winning these types of games. Six of its 14 GPAC wins have come by margins of either one or two points. The Broncos cracked a bit as Concordia brought pressure and threw a zone at them. GPAC leading scorer Reggie Thomas turned in 13 points, eight assists and four steals while going 5-for-20 from the floor. The big guy Danilo Matovic recorded 20 points and six rebounds. Hastings can still earn at least a share of the GPAC regular season title with a win at Doane on Saturday.

For Concordia, this was another gritty performance worthy of the postgame Valentino’s pizza provided by Schutte’s Uncle Jim, himself a Bulldog basketball player. Said Limback, “It was a wonderful, wonderful game. Hastings obviously is an outstanding team. I’m just thankful we came out on top in a gut test for us.”

The Bulldogs will attempt to keep pace at the top of the league standings when they finish the regular season on Saturday by hosting Midland (10-17, 5-14 GPAC) at 3:45 p.m. CT. Prior to tipoff, Concordia will honor a senior class that includes Joel Baker, Trey Scheef, Noah Schutte, Casey Stegeman and Bradyn Whittington. In this season’s first meeting with the Warriors, the Bulldogs won by a 104-86 score in Fremont.